President Trump has nominated FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to a second, five-year term at the FCC. Pai, a Republican who has served at the FCC since 2012, was promoted by Trump to the FCC’s chairmanship in January, although Pai’s previous term as an FCC commissioner expired on June 30, 2016. Provisions of the 1934 Communications Act allow FCC commissioners whose terms have expired to remain in office until they are reconfirmed, a successor is confirmed, or until the end of the current congressional session, whichever occurs first. Although Pai was not required to undergo Senate confirmation in connection with his new role as FCC Chairman, his nomination to a second, full term at the FCC will be subject to Senate confirmation. If confirmed, Pai’s new term (which would begin retroactively on July 1, 2016) will expire on June 30, 2021.
Notwithstanding Pai’s re-nomination, the FCC is still left with two vacant seats, one Republican and one Democrat. Last week, President Trump withdrew the nomination of former FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel which had been re-submitted by former President Obama at the start of the current Congressional term in January. Rosenworcel—a Democrat who had served at the FCC since 2012—was forced to leave the Commission after the U.S. Senate closed the previous Congressional session without conducting a floor vote on her previous, long-pending nomination. White House officials offered no comment as to when President Trump will nominate candidates for the remaining FCC seats. Declaring, however, that Senate Democrats continue to strongly support Rosenworcel as an FCC nominee, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said: “we expect that the Administration will honor the longstanding practice of deferring to the congressional leadership of the opposition party in its nominations, and that those nominations will be processed by the Senate alongside the nominations for majority seats.”
As Meredith Attwell Baker, the CEO of wireless association CTIA, praised Pai’s pursuit of “policies that would spur economic growth and job creation by advocating to open more spectrum for commercial use,” National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith voiced appreciation for Pai’s “deep understanding of broadcasting’s indispensable role in serving American communities with free, local and lifeline programming.” Announcing, “I am deeply honored to have been nominated by President Trump to serve a second term,” Pai promised: “I will continue to work with my colleagues to connect all Americans with digital opportunity.”