WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee will convene a second hearing to consider Gigi Sohn, President Biden’s nominee to fill the fifth and final spot at the Federal Communications Commission.
Though Sohn answered several hours of questions from the Senate in December and subsequently provided voluminous written responses, Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell acquiesced to Republican demands for another hearing, ignoring objections from civil-rights and public-interest groups. Any vote on Sohn’s nomination has been further complicated by the absence of Sen. Ben Ray Luján, who is recovering from a stroke he suffered two weeks ago.
Free Press Action Vice President of Policy and General Counsel Matt Wood said:
“Gigi Sohn is an impeccably qualified nominee for this important role at the Federal Communications Commission, with a long history of public service both inside and outside the agency. Further delaying her appointment only hurts the American public and deadlocks the FCC — which is precisely the point. Senator Wicker and the powerful industry lobbyists he’s working with don’t want the agency to function, and they’ll drum up any excuse to delay, derail or distract regulators from doing their jobs.
“Today’s hearing is entirely unnecessary. Sohn has already answered the committee’s questions in great detail. Hundreds of organizations from across the political spectrum strongly support her nomination. Their widespread and diverse call for Sohn’s confirmation is a reflection of her decades-long track record of bringing together varied stakeholders in bipartisan coalitions to fight for equitable broadband policies, media diversity, consumer protections, competition and the open internet.
“Companies that have long worked to capture federal agencies by placing former employees in leadership roles are now trying to undermine the nomination of someone who doesn’t fit that mold or play by their rules. The committee must reject these underhanded tactics, defend Sohn’s stellar record and move as quickly as possible to confirm her.
“Committee members should also reject any specious claims that Sohn needs to recuse herself from issues facing the FCC, when government-ethics officials have already roundly rejected the need for any such measures. The recently concocted double standards that Wicker and others are applying to Sohn’s work from more than a decade ago haven’t been applied in the same way to nominees who previously worked for the companies or their high-priced law firms.
“The committee members and journalists covering these proceedings must reject such spin and instead focus on Sohn’s deep knowledge of the communications policies before the agency, her broad array of supporters, and her long history as a champion of the public interest. She has always given weight to the concerns of everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, corporate pedigree, geographic location or tax bracket.
“Sohn represents a tie-breaking fifth vote at an FCC that has much to do to help create a more just, equitable and diverse U.S. media system. This includes ensuring the billions being invested in broadband actually reach those who need it most, restoring open-internet protections, reckoning with the agency’s history on race, and ensuring that all people have access to media opportunities, not just a handful of incumbents.
“We’ve waited over a year for a fully functional FCC. We can’t let cynical lobbying efforts from the broadcast or telecom industries further delay Sohn’s confirmation. Seating Sohn at the FCC is essential to the future of the media and technology in the United States. The Senate must treat this as a top priority.”