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Biden Renominates Sohn for FCC, Defying Calls to Withdraw Pick (1)

Jan. 4, 2022, 4:19 PMUpdated: Jan. 5, 2022, 9:58 PM

President Joe Biden renominated Democrat Gigi Sohn to serve on the Federal Communications Commission, despite broad Republican opposition.

Sohn’s confirmation would secure a Democratic majority at the commission for the first time since Biden took office, allowing it to pursue policies such as restoring Obama-era net neutrality rules.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee didn’t advance the nomination during the last congressional session.

Republicans argued Sohn would pursue heavy-handed regulations at the agency. They also criticized Sohn’s past remarks denouncing conservative media outlets. Some GOP senators called on Biden to withdraw her nomination.

It is unclear whether Sohn has enough Democratic support to win confirmation. She has had additional meetings with senators to shore up support, a spokesperson for Senate Commerce Democrats said in an email Monday.

“After meeting with Gigi Sohn and questioning her at her confirmation hearing, I am confident that she understands the internet connectivity challenges facing communities in Montana and across rural America,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mon.) said in an emailed statement.

“I intend to vote for her nomination because it’s critically important we have a fully functioning FCC, and I will hold her accountable to her commitment to increase access to high-speed internet that will lower costs for Montana families, create good-paying jobs, and grow the economy,” Tester added.

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) plans to support Sohn in the Senate Commerce committee after holding a “productive” meeting with her in December, Rosen’s office said in an email.

Sohn committed to meeting with Nevada broadcasters to hear their concerns, upholding all retransmission consent laws, and promoting diversity, Rosen’s office said.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), a critic of Obama-era net neutrality rules, has not stated whether she supports Sohn. Sinema’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for Senate Commerce Republicans did not respond to a request for comment.

In letters sent this week to Senate Commerce chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), three former FCC chiefs of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau expressed their support for Sohn.

One former chief, David Simpson, lauded Sohn for helping the bureau gain access to technologists, privacy policy experts, and security experts to ensure the bureau’s work “fully evaluated the costs and benefits of cybersecurity through a consumer lens.”

“Invariably there will be issues where her vote may not be the one you would make, but you will always know that she is a straight shooter ready to fully articulate ‘the why’ behind her decision,” Simpson wrote.

Former chiefs Jamie Barnett and David Turetsky co-signed a separate letter, in which they called Sohn “a strong advocate for the public safety and homeland security communications policies and initiatives that are critical to the American people and first responders.”

Alan Davidson, Biden’s pick to lead the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, is awaiting a full Senate vote. The Senate Commerce Committee last month approved Davidson’s nomination.

If confirmed, Davidson will be tasked with implementing $42.5 billion in new broadband subsidies, passed in infrastructure legislation.

(Updates Jan. 4 story with additional comment from Rosen.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Maria Curi at mcuri@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kibkabe Araya at karaya@bloombergindustry.com; Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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