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Nomination Hearing Smooth for FCC Nominees

Sen. Grassley Still Promises to Block Nominations

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller-D-W.Va., has assured FCC nominees Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai that they should feel good about their chances of being confirmed as commissioners at the agency.

During a hearing Wednesday Rockefeller praised the nominees, saying they both have a background at the commission, Congress and the private sector, enabling them “to have a deep understating of communications policy and the impact it has on everyday life.”

However during the approximately two-hour hearing, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa issued a statement reaffirming his intention to block their nominations unless the FCC releases paperwork related to the wireless firm LightSquared.The FCC has released some of the paperwork Grassley seeks, but he says that’s not enough. Grassley is a member of the committee but was not at the hearing.

In answering questions from lawmakers, both Rosenworcel and Pai said they would reject reintroducing the Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to cover controversial issues in a way the agency thought fair and balanced. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski officially struck the doctrine from the commission’s rules this year.

Both nominees said they support freeing up more spectrum for mobile broadband, but Rosenworcel said it would be “foolish” to rely only on spectrum auctions, saying, “We need to focus on technologies that use spectrum efficiently.” Both nominees said there should be an inventory of spectrum use.

Pai began working at Jenner & Block in April, and is a former FCC attorney and Senate staffer. He’s married and has one child. Pai highlighted that he grew up in rural Kansas and that his parents emigrated from India 40 years ago. Several members of his extended family were at the hearing.

Rosenworcel is senior communications counsel for the Senate Commerce Committee. She’s married and has two children, age two and five. She told lawmakers she believes a commitment to public service runs in her family. After a career in the air force, her father was a nephrologist in Hartford and ran a clinic for hypertension and kidney failure in Hartford, Conn. for 30 years. Rosenworcel said her mother has helped to run a soup kitchen there for the last two decades.

In a signal Rockefeller intends to have the committee vote on the nominations quickly, he asked for lawmakers to finish submitting their written questions for the nominees by today.

— Leslie Stimson