Saturday, Jun 10, 2023

Biden may scrap choice for Federal Communications Commission

Biden may scrap choice for Federal Communications Commission

Gigi Sohn, Biden's choice to run the federal agency, potentially lacks necessary Senate votes

The White House may finally be looking to throw in the towel on Gigi Sohn.

The Biden administration’s controversial choice to fill an open seat on the Federal Communications Commission has been in Senate confirmation limbo for months, failing to garner enough support to allow Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the tie-breaking vote.

The confirmation hurdle Sohn faces isn’t just the GOP in a 50-50 Senate. Her far-left positions have spooked moderate Democrats running in tight races in this year’s midterms who continue to balk at casting a "yes" vote for Sohn, thus forcing the White House to keep her nomination on ice.

Georgetown University Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy fellow Gigi Sohn testifies before the House Judiciary Committee's Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Wash

In recent weeks, at the urging of progressive advocates of Sohn, the White House has been discussing possibly pushing the vote until after the midterms, which might give the wavering Dems cover to vote for her confirmation in a lame duck session, Fox Business has reported.

But amid that discussion, the White House is also reaching out to other candidates as part of an early-stage vetting process if the administration decides to pull the plug on Sohn, according to one person with direct knowledge of the matter.

It’s unclear if the White House will go through with pursuing another candidate, people with knowledge of the matter say. The FCC is deadlocked 2-2 between GOP and Democratic appointees.

If the White House doesn’t pick a candidate soon and the GOP takes the Senate, the deadlock could remain for the extent of President Biden’s term, thwarting telecommunication policy, including a reprise of net neutrality, which essentially treats internet providers as utilities.

The White House and Sohn had no comment.

"It’s not clear who will win this one," said one FCC official speaking on the condition of anonymity. "The White House clearly wants the majority on the FCC, but the radicals clearly want Gigi in there."

Sohn is a darling of the progressive left, given her long career and positions as a telecom advocate, government official and academic. She enjoys the support of liberal stalwarts such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing in Washington on Oct. 19, 2021.

During the Obama administration, Sohn was one of the chief architects of net neutrality, a cornerstone of progressive telecom policy, which was reversed by the free-market types who ran the FCC under former President Donald Trump.

The Biden administration has vowed to reinstall net neutrality if it can get a majority of votes on the FCC.

But getting that majority with Sohn has been an uphill battle, given some of her controversial positions on telecom policies and other issues. For example, she has attacked Fox News as a threat to democracy and said right-leaning broadcaster Sinclair might not be qualified for an FCC license, raising doubts about whether she can follow administrative law as a primarily impartial FCC commission.

Her troubles grew more acute earlier in the year after the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest policy advocacy group, announced its opposition to Sohn over a series of tweets in which she appeared to support defunding the police.

The police group opposes Sohn’s nomination because her "social media, public policy stances, and employment history have indicated serious animus towards law enforcement officers and the rule of law."

With that, Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Catherine Cortez-Masto of Nevada — both running in tight midterm races — are said to have told the White House they couldn’t vote for Sohn. That prompted the White House to weigh pushing the nomination through after the midterms even as it has begun vetting other candidates, these people say.

Press officials for Kelly and Cortez-Masto had no comment.

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