The LightSquared controversy may delaytwo new nominations to the Federal Communications Commission, at least for now.
On Thursday Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, officially notified the Senate that he plans to place a hold on the confirmations of Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai to be FCC commissioners.
"I will object to proceeding to the nomination because the FCC continues to stonewall a document request I submitted to the FCC over six months ago on April 27, 2011, regarding their actions related to LightSquared and Harbinger Capital," Grassley said in a statement inserted into the Senate record.
Grassley has requested information from the FCC, as well as LightSquared and its chief financier, Harbinger Capital, about how the agency handled LightSquared's quest to build a wholesale nationwide wireless network. Tests have shown that the company's original plan interfered with global positioning systems.
The FCC and LightSquared have denied the requests for documents. In a letter to Grassley on Oct. 19, lawyers for LightSquared and Harbinger said the companies have been "fully transparent." But because Grassley did not also request documents from the GPS industry, LightSquared argued that any further disclosure would present an incomplete picture.
That answer, as well as the FCC's denial, did not play well with Grassley.
"It not only sets a dangerous precedent for a federal agency to unilaterally set the rules on how it engages with Congress -- it also prevents any meaningful ability for the vast majority of Congress to inform themselves of how an agency works," he said.
The hold will go into effect when and if the confirmations reach the Senate floor after being considered by the Commerce Committee.
FCC nominees often face little opposition, but can be used as bargaining chips.
For example, former FCC member Jonathan Adelstein's nomination was blocked for months from 2001 to 2002 by then-Republican Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted down Lott's choice for a judicial nomination.
Grassley's move to block the nomination was first reported by The Hill.