New FCC nominees to face Senate on Nov. 30

The Senate Commerce Committee has set Nov. 30 as the date for the hearing of two new members of the FCC, Ajit Pai and Jessica Rosenworcel.

The hearing, set for 2:30 p.m., will consider the nominations of Rosenworcel, a Democrat, and Pai, a Republican, the committee said in a statement. If approved by the full Senate, the two new members would bring the FCC back to full membership — the first time since Republican Meredith Attwell Baker left the commission last summer to lobby for Comcast.

In addition to filling Baker's seat, the Democratic nominee would fill the seat of retiring member Michael Copps, who must exit the commission by year's end. The nominees are considered uncontroversial and expected to be easily approved by the committee.

Rosenworcel is now senior counsel for the Commerce Committee's communications subcommittee and a top communications policy advisor to its chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). Pai, since last spring, has been a partner at Jenner & Block LLP. Before that he was in the Office of the General Counsel at the FCC, where he was deputy general counsel, associate general counsel and special advisor to the general counsel.

Rosenworcel was Rockefeller's choice for the FCC, while Pai is the pick of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

However, there may be a roadblock. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) said in early November that he would block the nominees because the FCC hadn't answered questions about whether it gave favorable treatment to the proposed LightSquared wireless service. Grassley has said he thinks the commission and White House are stonewalling him. The FCC rejected answering Grassley saying it only responds to the requests from committee chairmen, something that has not occurred.

Grassley's hold, if taken, wouldn't begin until the nominees clear the Commerce Committee and reach the Senate floor. Aides to Grassley said nothing had changed with the Republican's position.

The FCC's conditional waiver for the LightSquared 4G wireless broadband network service is being held up due to issues about interference with GPS. The commission is conducting more testing. LightSquared says it has a fix for the problem.

Grassley, according to news reports, met with staffers of Rockefeller last week to talk about how the chairman might be able to help persuade the FCC to respond to Grassley's information request.