Senate GOP May Move Trump FCC Pick With Earlier Nominee

Pair would move in tandem, as is tradition to ensure parity

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has announced plans to step aside, and her likely replacement, Geoffrey Starks, might need to be paired with another nominee to secure a vote. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Geoffrey Starks, President Donald Trump’s pick to be the next Democrat on the Federal Communications Commission, may need a partner on the road to Senate confirmation: FCC member Brendan Carr, whose renomination has been delayed since January.

Trump announced over the weekend that he would nominate Starks, a candidate recommended by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., to replace Mignon Clyburn. Clyburn, who is the daughter of Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., said in April that she wants to step aside in the near future after serving more than eight years on the panel.

Some nominees for slots on various commissions have faced delays in the 115th Congress because both parties have insisted on the practice of combining multiple nominees to the same commission, pairing one for each party to ensure continuity and prevent either party from gaining an edge in representation.

“Maybe this is going to break the logjam and allow us to move forward,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said Monday night. Wicker is the second-most senior on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. The panel hasn’t yet scheduled a hearing on the nomination.

Wicker said there was a good chance that Starks’ nomination would be moved in tandem with Carr’s.

Carr, a former FCC general counsel, was confirmed in August 2017 to fill former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s term, which expires at the end of June. But Carr’s renomination to a full five-year term starting July 1 has been on hold after the Senate panel approved it by a party-line vote of 14-13 on Jan. 18.

Starks has previously worked as a lawyer at Williams & Connolly and as senior counsel to the deputy attorney general under Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. He served for more than a year as a staff aide for an Illinois Senate committee, overlapping with Barack Obama’s final few months as an Illinois state senator.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a written statement that Starks had “a distinguished record of public service, including in the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, and I wish him all the best during the confirmation process.”

Carr praised Starks’ “longstanding commitment to public service” and said in a statement that he hoped to “work together on polities that will protect consumers and protect the interests of all Americans.”

Former Sen. Gordon H. Smith, R-Ore., president of National Association of Broadcasters, urged “swift confirmation” in a written statement.

Clyburn’s second term as an FCC member ended in July 2017, but she continues to serve as a hold-over member. She is expected, for now, to continue serving until Starks is formally nominated and confirmed.

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