The following blog post was co-authored by R Street Tech Policy Analyst Joe Kane.
The U.S. Senate will have a chance Monday to reconfirm Ajit Varadaraj Pai for another term as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, but it will first have to move past some baseless accusations about his suitability for the post that have been hurled the chairman’s way by a few congressional Democrats and political groups who want to block his reconfirmation.
In fact, Pai is arguably the most well-qualified chairman the FCC has had in recent years. Arguments to the contrary amount to a smokescreen for underlying disagreements with the market-oriented policy decisions Pai and his fellow commissioners have been pursuing at the FCC. These arguments should be rejected. We want more Pai.
Hailing from Parsons, Kansas, Pai attended Harvard University and the University of Chicago Law School before embarking on his illustrious legal career. Pai’s experience includes a federal judicial clerkship in Louisiana, multiple stints at the U.S. Justice Department and the Senate Judiciary Committee, and several years in private practice, first as associate general counsel for Verizon and then as a partner at the law firm Jenner & Block. Pai first joined the FCC in the General Counsel’s Office in 2007 before being nominated by President Barack Obama to be a commissioner in 2011. In 2012, he was confirmed by Democratic-controlled Senate by unanimous voice vote.
During his time as commissioner, Pai consistently pursued market-oriented policies and opposed expansive, heavy-handed regulation. It therefore should be no surprise that he has worked to implement these same policies as chairman. Additionally, Pai has prioritized closing the “digital divide,” incorporating rigorous cost-benefit analysis into agency rulemakings and implementing unprecedented transparency reforms, like publishing all pending orders on the FCC’s website three weeks prior to a vote. Pai’s actions prove he is an able public servant truly dedicated to pro-consumer policies.
Nonetheless, political opponents and activist groups are staunchly opposed to Pai’s FCC agenda. These groups have launched an all-out assault against the reconfirmation vote, forcing Senate Republicans to invoke cloture to even get a vote on Pai, which is scheduled for next Monday. The same senators who thought Pai was well-qualified when nominated as a commissioner should take the same view now.
While Senate Democrats may disagree with the policies Pai and his fellow Republican commissioners are advancing at the FCC, blocking a qualified public servant from office is not the proper response. Telecom policy is hugely important to all Americans, so it shouldn’t be relegated to bureaucratic rulemakings and squabbles over nominations. Ongoing debates over closing the digital divide and protecting net neutrality are vitally important. We need our leaders in Congress to pursue bipartisan legislation to settle these debates, not hold the current FCC Chairman hostage.
Cheesy dance moves aside, he is the best man for the job.
Image by Mark Van Scyoc