Senate gives Rosenworcel a new FCC term, but Republicans aim to block Gigi Sohn

Enlarge / FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee on December 5, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Getty Images | Chip Somodevilla

The United States Senate today approved a new five-year term for Federal Communications Commission Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel. Today’s vote has ensured Rosenworcel does not leave the committee at the end of the year. But the FCC is still at a 2-2 deadlock between Democrats and Republicans – and the GOP is launching a serious challenge against Gigi Sohn, the Biden candidate who would give Democrats a 3-2 majority.

Today’s vote on Rosenworcel was 68-31, with Democrats and some Republicans approving the re-appointment. We’ll update this story with more details on today’s Senate vote later, but you can see the results of last night’s closing vote to end the renomination debate here.

“It is the honor of my life to lead the FCC and to be the first permanent woman president”, Rosenworcel wrote on Twitter after the vote. “Thank you to the President and the Senate for giving me this responsibility. There is work to be done to make modern communications reach everyone, everywhere. Now let’s go.”

Biden initially appointed Rosenworcel as interim president, but removed the “interim” part of that title in October. The president can nominate any commissioner as president, so today’s Senate vote was only on whether Rosenworcel should get a new term as commissioner.

Rosenworcel’s previous term expired in mid-2020. US law allows commissioners with expired terms to stay until “the expiration of the session of Congress that begins after the expiration of the fixed term”, which allowed them to stay until early January 2022 with or without a new mandate. Rosenworcel’s new five-year term is retroactive to July 1, 2020.

Rosenworcel’s reconfirmation was never expected to face a serious challenge. Still, US Senator John Thune (RS.D.) has said he opposes the president’s new term because Rosenworcel wants to restore net neutrality rules.

Sohn faces Republican resistance

Sohn faces a much more difficult path to confirmation. During her nomination hearing last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other Republicans lambasted her for tweets in which she criticized Fox News, with GOP senators claiming she would try to hush up conservative views. However, conservative news networks Newsmax and One America News Network backed Sohn’s appointment and praised his long-standing commitment to free speech.

Sohn, a longtime consumer advocate, told Cruz, “Look at the conservative cable channels I worked with for years to get them to play on cable systems when those systems weren’t carrying them. I have long worked with organizations and companies with which I strongly disagreed on their point of view – staunch Republicans, staunch supporters of the former president – and worked with them to get their point of view in line. I think I have been labeled very unfairly as anti-conservative rhetoric. I think my record says otherwise. “

Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) said: “I will do everything in my power to convince my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reject this extreme candidate.” Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Thom Tillis (RN.C.) have both threatened to suspend Sohn’s appointment.

Last week, Tillis urged Biden to withdraw Sohn’s appointment, saying he is “particularly troubled by her history as an anti-copyright activist” who “has consistently worked against common sense measures that would crack down on illegal piracy “. Tillis highlighted Sohn’s former position as a board member of Locast, a non-profit online TV service that has shut down after losing a lawsuit launched by major broadcast networks.

At his nomination hearing, Sohn told senators that his experience at Locast and the networks’ lawsuit against the association “would not affect my decisions as a decision-maker.” Sohn also said: “I have worked closely with the government’s Ethics Office on an ethics agreement that I signed, and if there are any questions about my biases, I will work with them. to determine if I should not participate. in a procedure. But I don’t think I’m biased. “

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