The five-member Federal Communications Commission is at full strength after the Senate voted unanimously on Monday to approve two nominees to the panel.
The Senate confirmed Jessica Rosenworcel, a former Senate Commerce Committee senior communications counsel, to fill a Democratic seat on the FCC and Ajit Pai, a former FCC aide, to fill a Republican seat.
“They bring deep knowledge of our sector, and proven track records of accomplishment,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement. “President Obama made an outstanding choice in their nominations, and I look forward to working with them.”
In a sharply divided Senate, nominations can often turn into bargaining chips. To ease their confirmation FCC commissioners are often nominated in bipartisan pairs, but that didn’t prevent the FCC nominations from being held up for months.
In April Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, lifted a hold on the two nominees that had been in place since last year. He had concerns over how the FCC had handled the wireless startup LightSquared, but dropped his objections after the House and Senate commerce committees stepped in.
As commissioners the pair will likely be soon voting on issues like Verizon's spectrum deal with cable companies, and a plan to revamp subsidies for broadband and telephone development.
While the policy views of both new commissioners are not entirely clear, Rosenworcel is seen as sharing many of the consumer-oriented views of her former bosses, Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and former Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who she replaces. Pai is known for his expertise and easy-going style, which will likely mesh well his fellow GOP commissioner, Robert McDowell.
Both Rosenworcel and Pai have worked at the FCC. Rosenworcel was a senior adviser to Copps before joining the Commerce Committee in 2007.
Pai left the FCC, where he last served as deputy general counsel, in April. Pai was mentioned the last time there was a GOP opening on the FCC in 2009, before Meredith Atwell Baker ultimately got the nod. Baker left the FCC to work for Comcast last year, and Copps retired at the end of 2011.
“I am elated that the Senate has confirmed two qualified and intelligent FCC Commissioners and that the FCC will resume full operations,” Rockefeller said in a statement.
The new commissioners' grasp of telecom issues earned praised from industry groups like USTelecom and TechAmerica, as well as consumer advocates like Free Press and Public Knowledge.