Sen. Maria Cantwell Looks To ‘Firm Up’ Gigi Sohn FCC Confirmation Vote

Sen. Maria Cantwell
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, is still looking to hold a confirmation vote for FCC nominee Gigi Sohn sometime soon.

Sohn‘s nomination has gotten pushback from Republicans citing her support for Title II-based network neutrality rules and her support of fair-use carveouts from content copyright protections, and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) has said he would put a hold on her nomination before it got to a floor vote.

A Cantwell spokesperson had told Next TV earlier this month that the plan was to hold a vote by the end of the month. But with only a week left, no vote had been scheduled.

FCC nominee Gigi Sohn at Senate confirmation hearing

Gigi Sohn at her December confirmation hearing.  (Image credit: C-SPAN)

Asked Friday (January 21) about the holdup, the spokesperson cited scheduling issues rather than any political pushback. “That’s because the recess [a planned January 17-21 ‘state work period’] was moved to next week,” she said. “Hopefully we will have something confirmed at some point next week.”

Sohn's nomination had to be resubmitted by President Joe Biden on January 4 after no action was taken by the committee before the end of 2021.

Sohn has already faced a nomination hearing, during which the Republican questioning seemed less pointed and adversarial than expected. But since then there appears to have been a ramping up of opposition, which fans of Sohn attribute in part to pushback from industry players over the net neutrality issue and perhaps an effort to slow-roll any third Democrat on the five-member commission to forestall internet service provider or broadcast reregulation.

Sohn was a big supporter of Title II as top adviser to Obama-era FCC chair Tom Wheeler, whose FCC adopted rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization before they were reversed by the Republican FCC majority under Trump-era chairman Ajit Pai. Current chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel is expected to readopt the rules once she gets a Democratic majority, which would mean the confirmation of Sohn or some other Democrat.

It is likely that whoever gets the third Democratic seat would support restoring net neutrality rules, which is why the opposition to Sohn could just be opposition to filling the third seat for as long as possible. ■

John Eggerton

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.