Jessica Rosenworcel and Brendan Carr can take their seats for their allotted terms as FCC commissioners, but chairman Ajit Pai will have to wait until autumn to find out if he can remain at the FCC past next December.
It's all part of the complicated, partisan deal that led to the voice vote ("unanimous consent") Thursday in which senators okayed Democrat Rosenworcel for a term through 2020 but only allowed Republican Carr to hold office through June 2018. Republican senators on the Commerce Committee had sought to approve him simultaneously for the unexpired term plus for the ensuing term through 2023.
Senate Democrats stalled Pai's confirmation, though, in an unexpected show of force. Analysts told B&C that most likely means the Senate will take a recorded vote on Pai's nomination when it reconvenes in September. In that situation, Senators would be able to speak for or against Pai, and the presumption is that Democrats will use it as a forum to denounce his positing on net neutrality or other stances. If he is not confirmed for his term, Pai would have to leave office at the end of the 115th Congress next year—under a similar scenario as Rosenworcel faced when she left the FCC in December 2016.
Pai tweeted congratulations to his "new" colleagues within moments after Senate approval.
— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) August 3, 2017
Thursday's Senate actions puts the FCC back at its full five-member strength, with three Republicans and two Democrats. There is no indication yet of when Carr and Rosenworcel will be sworn into their posts, but it certainly will be well before the next FCC meeting on Sept. 28. Under Pai's new management approach, items for the agenda are distributed three weeks before each meeting, suggesting that the newly confirmed members will be in their seats by about Labor Day, if not sooner.
Both Rosenworcel and Carr know their way around the building: Carr is currently the FCC general counsel and was previously Pai's legal advisor. Rosenworcel served from 2012 until December 2016.
NAB also issued a congratulatory statement: “NAB congratulates Jessica Rosenworcel and Brendan Carr on their confirmation to the FCC. They are both well-versed in telecommunications issues and bring a wealth of experience to the Commission. We look forward to working with them on the important regulatory issues facing local radio and TV broadcasters across the country."