I was recently in an argument with someone who claimed that Obama put Aji Pal as the chairman, which isn't true, but he did put him as one of five commissioners. And I thought, why would Obama do this?

Looking up the rules for commissioners, at least part of the story was uncovered by requirements for two commissioners out of the 5 to be not from the president's party. But that doesn't explain why they needed to be republican exactly, or why they Aji Pal needed to be one of those commissioners.

According to a few news sites, the claim is that Mitch McConnell recommended Aji Pal to the president. But that alone doesn't seem to be a problem since democrats had a majority, though I don't know if it was enough (60) at the time he was nominated.

A few news sites went further:

and claimed it was actually tradition that the minority leader of the senate provide two nominees for the majority to accept for commissioner.

Rather, there’s a tradition of letting the minority party pick two commissioners, since the majority can only legally hold three seats; in nominating Pai — at the recommendation of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican — Obama was sticking to that tradition.

Starks was nominated to the FCC by President Trump on the advice of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). By tradition, the president appoints opposite-party commissioners based on recommendations from the opposing party.

The problem is I'm having a hard time finding any other news site that claims this, though it certainly is believable. I can't even google for this kind of thing, I'm getting nothing terribly relevant to nominations for the FCC.

Is there actually a long standing tradition of accepting nominee suggestions from the opposite parties leadership?

  • 2
    Why does this surprise you? Your title says dictate and your text says provide. The president can still stay no, suggest someone else. Also note that it is possible for the president and the Senate majority to be of different parties. In that case the Senate majority would recommend the 2 “alternate party” candidates. – Damila Jul 22 at 19:55
  • @Damila Really it surprised me? That's news to me. Also my sources say accepting those two candidates at the other two is tradition. I'm trying to figure out if that is indeed the case, or if typically presidents didn't just pick what the alternative party leader chose. – whn Jul 22 at 20:28
  • Per the FCC's official site: "He had previously served as Commissioner at the FCC, appointed by then-President Barack Obama and confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate in May 2012." So not only was Ajit Pai nominated by President Obama in 2012, every Democratic Senator voted for him. That doesn't address the tradition that your question asks about, hence this is just a comment. – Just Me Jul 22 at 20:41
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    Sorry, the wording of your title made it sound like you were incredulous. It was the "really" I think. Anyway, tradition does not mean required. For more examples of the phenomenon, GW Bush(R) nominated a Democrat (Michael Copps) who was pushed by then Senate committee chair Fitz Hollings (D). Whether or not that officially went through Tom Daschle (D), well nothing happens in a vacuum. – Damila Jul 22 at 20:47
  • Actually, based on some quick research it seems that sometimes it is the Commerce Committee chair who pushes a nominee when the Senate and president are different parties. Then Senator/ Committee Chairman John McCain (R) pushed for a Republican that then President Clinton (D) nominated. – Damila Jul 22 at 20:52

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