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Trump yanks renomination of Republican FCC commissioner

The move comes as Senate Republicans push back against FCC approval of a controversial 5G network.

FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly and Chairman Ajit Pai
FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly (right) with agency Chairman Ajit Pai during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., in August 2018.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Trump on Monday withdrew his nomination of Michael O'Rielly to serve another term as a commissioner for the Federal Communications Commission. 

O'Rielly, a Republican, has served on the FCC since 2013. He was first nominated by President Barack Obama and was sworn in for a second term in 2015. This would have been his third term on the FCC. Two weeks ago the Senate Commerce Committee recommended his nomination to the full Senate for a vote. 

It's unclear why the White House pulled the nomination, which was first reported by Reuters. But O'Rielly's views have clashed at times with those of the president and some powerful Republicans in the Senate. 

Less than a week ago, Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, said he opposed O'Rielly's nomination due to the commissioner's decision to approve a controversial 5G network. The proposed network operated by the company Ligado would use the L-band of wireless spectrum, which has been used for radar and GPS service. Ligado's proposal use low-power terrestrial radios, which the company said mitigated interference issues. The Department of Defense disagrees.

Several members of Congress have taken issue with the FCC's approval of the network. Inhofe is one of them.  

"This isn't just about our military, but all users of GPS are united in opposition," he said last week. Inhofe said he'd block O'Rielly's nomination "until he publicly states that he will vote to overturn the current Ligado Order."

O'Rielly has also recently clashed with President Trump over his executive order asking the FCC to limit liability protections for social media companies. The executive order directed the Commerce Department to ask the FCC to consider regulation that would give it oversight over Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

"As a conservative, I'm troubled voices are stifled by liberal tech leaders," he wrote on Twitter in May. "At same time, I'm extremely dedicated to First Amendment which governs much here."

In June, he publicly expressed concerns that the FCC may not have the authority to execute Trump's executive order. 

"I have deep reservations they provided any intentional authority for this matter," he said in a C-Span interview. Last week, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which operates under the Commerce Department, filed its petition for a rule-making. The FCC opened public comment on Monday. 

O'Rielly's office didn't respond to a request for comment.

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