Fans in the association sphere called on the Senate to confirm Democratic nominee Gigi Sohn to fill the fifth seat on the Federal Communications Commission, which has been vacant for well over a year.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the associations — comprising the Consumer Technology Association, the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), Chamber of Progress, CompTIA, the Internet Infrastructure Coalition, INCOMPAS and NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association — acknowledged the Senate had a lot on its plate with “pressing national issues.” Nonetheless, they urged senators to end debate over Sohn’s nomination — a discharge vote is akin to a cloture vote, allowing for a final vote on a bill or nomination.
While the trade groups back Sohn, they also suggested ending debate was about just having a functioning — as in fully staffed — FCC “to advance regulatory items critical to our ability to help promote a strong economy and maintain our nation’s competitiveness.”
They also evoked some of the pressing issues the Senate is dealing with, like what to do about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its censorship of coverage critical of the war. “The absence of a fifth commissioner hamstrings the agency when U.S. leadership on technology policy is most needed,” they said. “As authoritarian regimes around the world move to supplant U.S. leadership and restrict access to an open and free internet, we must ensure the U.S. government is well-positioned to thoroughly consider and advance policies that promote democratic values.“
The Senate has yet to vote to discharge Sohn’s nomination from the Senate Commerce Committee after a tie vote out of the panel. The tie vote means Sohn was not favorably reported, so a Senate vote is required to discharge the nomination from committee before it can move to a final vote.
Republicans have been pushing back hard on Sohn's nomination, citing her criticism of Fox News Channel and past stands on intellectual property and net neutrality. But some Sohn fans see other forces at work, including a general Republican effort to slow roll key nominees until the midterm elections and broadband companies trying to delay the return of net neutrality rules under Title II of the Communications Act.
The Senate last week voted to discharge Federal Trade Commission nominee Alvaro Bedoya after his vote in committee was also tied, but that Bedoya vote required Vice President Kamala Harris to weigh in since the discharge vote was also tied 50-50. The Senate has yet to take a final confirmation vote on Bedoya.
Sohn’s discharge vote, if and when it happens, might also need a nod from the VP.
Like Bedoya, Sohn represents the Democratic majority the Biden administration needs to move on politically divided issues such as media ownership regulations and restoring net neutrality rules. ▪️
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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