Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.) announced today that he will block Senate floor action on the renomination of FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly until Mr. O’Rielly commits to voting to overturn the FCC’s Ligado Networks LLC order.
“Over the past few months, I have sent letters, held hearings and called countless officials to highlight what we all know to be true: the FCC’s Ligado Order is flawed and will lead to significant harm to our military and the thousands of individuals and businesses that rely on GPS. The Trump administration understands this and has urged the FCC to reconsider the Ligado Order,” Sen. Inhofe said in a statement.
“I am holding Commissioner O’Rielly’s nomination until he [publicly] states that he will vote to overturn the current Ligado Order,” the senator added. “I understand that O’Rielly has stated that he would give ‘due consideration to a stay’ ‘based on new data or evidence’—but that isn’t enough. This isn’t just about our military, but all users of GPS are united in opposition. All of America can’t be wrong, and he understands that. I need his commitment in plain English to vote to overturn the order, not just consider it, before I will allow his nomination to proceed.”
The FCC approved the Ligado order in April on a unanimous vote but over the objection of a number of federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, and aviation and other private-sector entities (TR Daily, April 20). The order adopted a license modification request to deploy a nationwide broadband network in the L-band. Opponents say it will cause interference to critical Global Positioning System operations. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration and a number of private-sector entities have asked the Commission to reconsider the order and NTIA has also filed a stay request (TR Daily, May 26).
Commissioner O’Rielly’s second term expired on June 30, 2019. By statute, if he is not confirmed to another term, he is allowed to continue serving until the earlier of the end of the current legislative session or the confirmation of a successor.
The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee voted for Mr. O’Rielly’s renomination last week (TR Daily, July 22).
Although the committee voted by voice vote, four Democratic members asked to be recorded as no votes: committee ranking minority member Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) and Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), and Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii).
Sen. Cantwell cited concerns about a 2018 finding by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel that concluded that Commissioner O’Rielly “violated the Hatch Act for political comments made at a Conservative Political Action Conference event” (TR Daily, May 2, 2018). She also said that he “has recently injected I believe politics into part of the spectrum issue, which I find disturbing.”
Mr. O’Rielly’s office had no comment today on Sen. Inhofe’s hold announcement. —Paul Kirby, [email protected]
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