With a change in control of the House of Representatives to the Democratic party, a shift in leadership of the important-to-broadcasters House Energy & Commerce Committee has been expected since Election Day some five weeks ago.
To the shock of no one, the committee with oversight of the FCC will be lead in the 116th Congress by one of the biggest detractors of Chairman Ajit Pai and the GOP-driven “modernization” seen under his watch.
That would be New Jersey Democrat Frank Pallone Jr., who was unanimously elected to the role by the House Democratic Caucus.
The selection of Pallone could bring a whole new dynamic to how the FCC seeks to push forward “modernization” efforts in 2019 — including a much-discussed plan to loosen the Commission’s local radio ownership rules.
Pallone’s presence also gives greater wielding power to the lone Democrat on the Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel. The nomination hearing for Geoffrey Starks has been placed on hold by Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, as this is tied to the renomination of Republican Brendan Carr.
As it stands today, Carr will be asked to sit out at the FCC until he is nominated to serve a new term; legally, he cannot serve as a Commissioner once the 116th Congress begins. As such, Carr is now a pawn just as Rosenworcel was with the transition in power from the Obama administration to that of President Trump.
In a statement, Pallone expressed gratitude to his Democratic colleagues for their support in electing him as the leader of the House E&C Committee.
“I look forward to working with all of my colleagues to build a stronger economy, create more good-paying jobs and protect consumers from skyrocketing costs,” he said. “In the coming months, we will push an aggressive agenda to rebuild America, combat climate change, make health care and prescription drugs more affordable, and protect peoples’ privacy. We’ll also conduct robust oversight of the Trump Administration’s ongoing actions to sabotage our health care system, exacerbate climate change and weaken consumer protections.”