Senate Commerce Committee to Vote on FCC Nominee Sohn Today

As we go to press, the Senate Commerce Committee is considering President Biden’s controversial nominee, Gigi Sohn, to fill the last seat on the FCC. This has been a rough hearing for the nominee. Republicans are strongly opposing her nomination.

At the present time, the FCC has two democrats and two republicans. The stalemate keeps the FCC from making significant policy changes. If confirmed, Ms. Sohn will give democratic FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel a majority and allow her to move forward with her agenda.

In supporting her nomination, Send Maria Cantwell (D WA) Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee stated:

‘With Ms. Sohn, we couldn’t have a more qualified person. Thirty years of experience working on telecommunications policy, including senior adviser to Chairman Wheeler at the FCC.  She’s a prominent voice in the telecommunications arena, leading the charge on accessible and affordable broadband, consumer protection, and competition.

She has demonstrated a track record of convening a broad range of stakeholders from both sides of the aisle to achieve these goals. As a founder and leader of a nonprofit organization, she has shepherded a new era of advocacy of telecommunications policy in the information age and has been in the middle of every major debate that has transpired in the shaping of the regulatory framework on these important policy issues.”

Gigi Sohn has been a controversial candidate, drawing significant opposition from Republican senators. Her nomination was stopped last year. In the hearing last week, Sen. Roger Wicker (R MS), Ranking Republican on the Commerce Committee, noted:

“Ms. Sohn is a brilliant attorney, and I have noted before that all who know her would agree that she is a knowledgeable and determined advocate. But with these rising complications besetting her potential service as an FCC Commissioner, I question whether she is the best choice to fill this vacancy. There are indeed many other qualified candidates who would not have to recuse themselves and answer questions about legal settlements.”

Her nomination may move through the Committee on a very close partisan vote. The real issue will be whether the nomination can move through the full Senate. While her nomination failed last year, Democrats picked up a seat in the last election, giving them a solid majority on a straight party-line vote. Nonetheless, Republican opposition remains strong and the nomination could fail if one or two Democratic Senators oppose.

If appointed to the FCC, Gigi Sohn will embrace the Biden agenda. She has been a strong supporter of reinstating the net neutrality rules. Moreover, we do not expect her to support deregulatory efforts such as relaxing the local or national broadcast ownership rules. To the contrary, in answering a question at her hearing today, she seemed to imply that she would tighten local ownership rules. Stay tuned.

You can see Ms. Sohn’s nomination hearing from last week and statements from various Senators here.