President Trump intends to nominate Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel to return to the Federal Communications Commission after her term lapsed at the end of last year because of political maneuvering.
The White House announced the coming nomination of Rosenworcel, a supporter of tough net neutrality rules for online traffic, late Monday night. But her nomination is not expected to impede efforts by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, to roll back the net neutrality rules later this year.
If confirmed by the Senate, Rosenworcel would become only the second FCC commissioner to serve nonconsecutive terms.
Her first five-year term expired in May 2016, but she was allowed to stay on until the end of the year as Democrats pushed Senate Republican leaders to allow a confirmation vote after President Obama renominated her.
Although Rosenworcel had bipartisan support, Senate Republican leaders did not bring her nomination up for a vote. President Obama had renominated her in January shortly before he left office, but Trump withdrew the nomination a few weeks later.
Andrew Jay Schwartzman, a Georgetown University law professor and longtime telecommunications consumer advocate, cheered the decision to renominate Rosenworcel.
"This appointment rights a wrong because she deserved confirmation last year and should have been sitting on the commission all along," he said. "I look forward to her zealous advocacy for universal broadband deployment, especially for younger Americans."
The five-member commission now has two Republicans — Pai and Michael O'Rielly — and one Democrat, Mignon Clyburn.
Pai, who joined the FCC three days after Rosenworcel in 2012, congratulated her on the nomination.
"She has a distinguished record of public service, including the four and a half years we worked together at this agency, and I look forward to working with her once again to advance the public interest," he said.
Clyburn's term expires at the end of the month, but she could stay on until the end of the year unless a replacement is confirmed. The agency generally needs at least three members for a quorum to vote on rules and take other formal actions.
Clyburn also congratulated Rosenworcel on Wednesday.
"I look forward to working with her in the fight for an open Internet, affordable broadband and strong consumer privacy protections," Clyburn said, indicating she hoped to stay on at the FCC for another term.
Trump appears to intend to nominate Rosenworcel, a former FCC and Senate staffer, to fill the Democratic vacancy created when former Chairman Tom Wheeler stepped down Jan. 20 upon Trump's inauguration.
The White House will specify which seat Rosenworcel would fill when it formally sends the nomination to the Senate.
Trump could renominate Clyburn along with another Republican, which would allow the agency to retain its GOP majority. The political party of the president gets to hold three of the agency's five seats.
FCC nominations usually move through the Senate in bipartisan pairs. Rosenworcel's nomination is expected to be paired with the renomination of Pai, whose five-year term expires later this year.
When Democrats controlled the agency in 2015, Rosenworcel joined with Clyburn and then-Chairman Wheeler to pass the controversial net neutrality rules that subjected broadband providers to the same utility-like oversight as conventional phone companies.
The move was strongly opposed by Republicans and major broadband providers, such as AT&T Inc.
The regulations are designed to ensure the unfettered flow of online content. They prohibit broadband providers from slowing Internet speeds for some content such as video streams, selling faster lanes for delivering data or otherwise discriminating against any legal online material.
Pai has proposed to reverse the utility-like oversight of broadband providers, a move Democrats and consumer advocates said would make it difficult to police net neutrality regulations.
8:45 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, along with some additional analysis.