By the end of the day Monday, every U.S. Senator should be well aware of who Ajit Varadaraj Pai of Kansas is, and what he stands for.
That’s because the upper legislative body of Congress will vote on his confirmation as FCC Chairman with no intervening action or debate at 5:30pm Eastern, following 2 1/2 hours of further consideration of Pai’s nomination.
The nomination of Pai has turned contentious, with Democratic Senators expressing their disapproval while key Republican Senators have voiced their support of Pai. The divergent sentiments on Pai are chiefly tied to the FCC’s rescission of Title II protections for “Net Neutrality,” and concerns that such a change would create preferential speeds for certain websites, and slower access to others.
Cantwell’s opposition to Pai’s role on the Commission was squarely due to his stance on Net Neutrality. Similar negativity was voiced by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Meanwhile, Montana Republican Sen. John Thune, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, praised Pai in a long statement delivered on the Senate floor. It was hardly a surprise, as Thune had an acrimonious relationship with Pai’s predecessor, Tom Wheeler.
While Democrats will get more chances to voice their opposition to Pai on Monday, it’s all political theater: While Democrats successfully put a halt to a unanimous consent agreement on Pai when Brendan Carr and Jessica Rosenworcel were given a “fast-track” approval to serve as FCC Commissioners, the Republicans have all the necessary Senate votes to keep Pai in place — unless an unexpected defection transpires.
Pai’s current term lapsed some 15 months ago, but can stay on the Commission until the end of the current Congress if a highly unlikely “no” vote happens on Monday.
With the “yes” vote, President Trump will immediately get the news, and seal Pai’s new term. This would be retroactively set for a July 1, 2016 start, and conclude June 30, 2021.
Also in the ether is the renomination of Carr for a term of five years that would begin July 1, 2018. As of yet there has been little, if any, debate or discussion on the nomination.