Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) would no doubt argue that the FCC is imperiling its quorum itself by not responding to his long-pending request for LightSquared documentation, but the fact remains that the current Commission is one commissioner light, another is retiring, and the two replacements have been iced by Grassley. Three will be left, and if one is missing for a given vote, there can BE no vote.
The second Republican seat has been vacant since Meredith Baker exited hers last summer for another at Comcast. And long-time Democrat Michael Copps is officially out the door 1/1/12 at the very latest.
As pointed out by the ever-watchful crew at Hillicon Valley and watchdogs Andrew Schwartzman of Media Access Project and Harold Feld of Public Knowledge, that leaves the current dynamic of the 8th Floor intact, in that there will be two Democrats holding sway over one Republican. It will become three Democrats and two Republicans once Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai are allowed to take their seats on the Commission.
It is also pointed out that the upcoming FCC agenda is not expected to include any particularly controversial items.
However, if a Commissioner is out of town, or calls in sick, or for political reasons refuses to show up, two is not enough to get anything done that requires an 8th Floor stamp of approval.
However, FCC day-to-day operations would continue at the pleasure of Chairman Julius Genachowski, another reason that the bare-bones 8th Floor is not expected to result in a major work stoppage.
The other two sitting commissioners are Republican Robert McDowell and Democrat Mignon Clyburn.
RBR-TVBR observation: Some have argued that Republicans in the House are attempting to hamstring the Commission – perhaps they are getting an inadvertent assist from Grassley. An unfortunate flat tire or a sugar-infused gas tank at an inopportune moment could bring down an entire rulemaking! But this sort of regulatory espionage is not expected to be a problem.