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President Joe Biden has failed to nominate a chairman or fifth commissioner to the Federal Communications Commission, stifling the Democratic agenda at the agency and creating the possibility that Republicans get an opportunity to take over the majority at the end of this year.
The five-member agency, which is in charge of regulating the TV, radio, and telecom industries, along with ensuring broadband internet access, has been missing one commissioner and a full-time chairman since Biden became president at the beginning of this year.
Currently, there are two Democratic and two Republican commissioners at the agency, and acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s term will end at the end of this year, meaning there could be a 2-1 Republican majority in 2022.
After nine months, Democrats and liberal groups are angry that Biden has not moved more quickly to choose a new FCC commissioner and reconfirm Rosenworcel, thereby stalling their efforts to reinstate net neutrality rules, increase transparency regarding internet billing, and reduce corporate media ownership.
“There’s no good excuse," Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico told Politico. "I’m absolutely fearful that what the administration is setting up is a 2-1 Republican majority FCC under a Democratic administration. That is unacceptable."
With very few legislative days left on the calendar, there is an increasing likelihood that Biden will neither be able to reconfirm Rosenworcel or pick and confirm a new agency commissioner.
If that situation occurs, the one remaining Democrat at the agency, Geoffrey Starks, would become acting chairman and he would be in charge of deciding what gets voted on, even if Republicans can outvote him on every issue.
Conservatives say Democratic worries of Republicans ramming through their own agenda at the FCC, if they are in the majority, are not warranted.
“Any Democratic fears are hyperbolic claims which are unfounded and overblown because of the acting chair's powers," said Nathan Leamer, a top tech policy adviser at the FCC for almost three years with former Chairman Ajit Pai, who served in the Trump administration.
“And it hides the fact that there is remarkable bipartisanship on most issues at the FCC. The controversial issues are the exception to the rule," said Leamer, who is now vice president of public affairs at Targeted Victory, a conservative political advertising firm.
However, he admitted that the Democratic agenda of restoring net neutrality rules from the Obama administration and reducing corporate media ownership would be delayed under a Republican majority.
“If I was a Democrat, I would be annoyed that my agenda is stalled, not fearful of Republicans pushing forth a free market agenda,” he said.
Liberals are frustrated that the Biden administration has not prioritized their agenda at the FCC.
"For people like me who care deeply about these issues and are involved in these issues ... we are outraged that the administration has not done this," Blair Levin, a former Democratic FCC chief of staff told NPR.
"But to be fair to the administration, they have a few other things on their plate that frankly are more important in terms of the country," Levin said.
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Original Author: Nihal Krishan
Original Location: FCC could have a Republican majority, thanks to Biden delays