When President Obama announced his nominations to fill two vacant spots at the Federal Communications Commission on Monday, the bi-partisan pair—made up of Republican Ajit Pai and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel—was expected to sail through the confirmation process. But Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, announced Thursday that he will put a hold on the nominations—and not because he has any qualms with either one.
What Grassley does have a problem with is the FCC: The senator is planning to block the nominees in order to protest the commission's refusal to honor his request for information related to wireless company LightSquared, which is building a highly controversial high-speed network, The Hill reported today.
"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. (Harbinger Capital is the primary investor in LightSquared.) "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."
LightSquared first attracted government concern last summer when a federal engineering advisory group warned the FCC that its proposed broadband network could interfere with GPS signals. After submitting a proposal to modify its network, which it is currently testing, LightSquared was given a conditional go-ahead from the FCC.
But some government officials are worried that LightSquared may have had an unfair advantage. Emails surfaced revealing that LightSquared had been in communications with top White House aides, on top of reports that the administration had asked an Air Force general to change congressional testimony to be more positive towards LightSquared, which led some Republicans to push for an investigation into the company’s lobbying efforts.