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Report: 2 front-runners emerge for open FCC seats

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Report: 2 front-runners emerge for open FCC seats

President Donald Trump has two names in mind to fill the two open seats at the Federal Communications Commission, Recode reported June 8.

Citing multiple sources familiar with the matter, Recode said Trump is likely to select Brendan Carr, a Republican who currently serves as FCC general counsel, and Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat who served as a commissioner at the agency until her term expired at the end of 2016.

Trump must fill the two open seats with one Republican and one Democrat. While it is typical for the party controlling the White House to control the FCC, the commission's majority is limited by law to "the least number of commissioners which constitutes a majority of the full membership of the Commission." In other words, the commission cannot have four Republicans and one Democrat. Currently, the FCC is composed of two Republicans — Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Michael O'Rielly — and one Democrat, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.

Prior to his current role as general counsel, Carr spent three years as Pai's wireless, public safety, and international legal adviser. In that role, he provided legal advice on a wide range of spectrum policy, competition and public safety matters. Before joining the commission, Carr was an attorney at the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Wiley Rein LLP, where he worked in the firm's appellate, litigation and telecom practices. In naming Carr acting general counsel in January, Pai described him as "a lawyer's lawyer."

Rosenworcel was nominated for her FCC seat by former President Barack Obama and sworn into office in 2012. She had been expected to get another term at the FCC, but she was never reconfirmed by the Senate, a point that continues to irk some Democrats. According to former Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, he struck a deal with Republicans back in December 2014 for Rosenworcel's reconfirmation. The agreement was that Reid and other Democrats would confirm a Republican FCC commissioner immediately, with the understanding that Republicans would then vote to reconfirm Rosenworcel before her first term ended in 2015. The vote on Rosenworcel, however, never came.

Prior to joining the agency, Rosenworcel served as senior communications counsel for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

The two open seats at the FCC are not the only ones that may soon require a vote. After a commissioner's term expires, there is a grace period known as a "holdover" that ends either when a replacement is confirmed, or at the end of the congressional session the following year. Pai is currently in a holdover year, meaning he must be reconfirmed this year. Additionally, Clyburn's term officially expires on June 30, though her holdover period could stretch until December 2018.