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Gigi Sohn, President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the fifth and final commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, had yet another confirmation hearing this week as her nomination continues to drag on.
We’ve covered the saga of Sohn’s nomination for more than a year. It has included false attacks on her, misleading claims from the Fraternal Order of Police, and a lot of grandstanding and disingenuous remarks by Republican lawmakers who are attempting to sink her candidacy (despite major conservative networks backing Sohn’s candidacy in 2021).
Oh, and after this week’s hearing, you can add making up hypothetical tweets to the list of things her nomination has endured.
Sohn’s confirmation would have major implications. The president’s political party is supposed to have three of the five seats at the FCC. Sohn would be the third Democratic commissioner, allowing the agency to vote on issues and agenda items (like potentially restoring net neutrality rules) that would almost assuredly require a party-line vote.
But Sohn and other lawmakers took the opportunity to call out the attacks as a result of big telecom.
In her prepared remarks for her third confirmation hearing, Sohn said she felt her confirmation was being blocked because the telecom industry doesn’t want a “pragmatic, pro-competition, pro-consumer policymaker” at the FCC.
“I believe deeply that regulated entities should not choose their regulator. Unfortunately, that is the exact intent of the past 15 months of false and misleading attacks on my record and my character,” Sohn said. “My industry opponents have hidden behind dark money groups and surrogates because they fear a pragmatic, pro-competition, pro-consumer policymaker who will support policies that will bring more, faster, and lower-priced broadband and new voices to your constituents.”
During the confirmation hearing, several lawmakers also blamed big telecom for the seemingly-never ending smear campaigns and delays her nomination has been subject to.
“This position remains vacant because the companies that are lawfully subject to oversight by the FCC don’t want a watchdog,” Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) said. “They don’t want to be regulated, and these companies have spent an immense amount of money and influence to keep this position vacant. The more that I read, the more time that goes by, it seems more and more clear to me.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, said she felt like Sohn’s nomination became a “proxy fight” fornet neutrality, but evolved into something else.
“The vitriol of these attacks made me think, no, it’s even more than this,” Cantwell said, adding: “You are a smart, talented individual that’s going to go there and fight for affordable broadband anywhere. And somehow, if affordable broadband gets deployed anywhere, then somehow more affordable broadband might get deployed everywhere. So I think there’s probably billions of dollars at stake here, and that is why the vitriol is coming at you. Now I hope that we can see through that today.”
Why it matters
Sohn’s nomination has been drawn out for a comically long time. Perhaps after a third confirmation hearing the Senate will finally vote on her nomination. Her nomination is expected to pass through the Senate, especially now that some Democratic senators who seemed wishy-washy on her candidacy might fall in line with the rest of the party.