Posted by Chris Alarie on Tue, 10/26/2021 - 10:17
Ending a long, unusual saga, President Joe Biden has finally nominated Jessica Rosenworcel to a permanent appointment as Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair while nominating her for another 5 year term on the FCC, as her previous term expired last year. He also nominated public interest lawyer Gigi Sohn for the vacant fifth Commissioner slot. Both will need to be confirmed by the Senate.
Rosenworcel has been a Commissioner since 2012 and was named as Acting Chair by President Biden when he first took office in January. However, Biden engaged in a historically long delay in nominating a permanent Chair, leading to open letters from consumer advocate groups and 25 Democratic Senators urging Biden to nominate Rosenworcel. Further complicating matters was the fact that Rosenworcel’s term as Commissioner had expired and she would have to step down in January 2022, giving the Republicans an unprecedented 2-1 FCC majority as the opposition party.
If Rosenworcel and Sohn are confirmed by the Senate, the FCC will finally have its usual, full working majority. Rosenworcel has a reputation as a business-friendly Chair while Sohn comes from the progressive wing of the Democratic party. Should both be confirmed, it is likely that the FCC will favor consumers more than it had during the previous 10 months of 2-2 deadlock. The Biden administration had previously outlined relatively progressive priorities on communications issues but has thus far been unable to enact those priorities.
Rosenworcel obviously has significant FCC experience and Sohn had previously worked in a senior staff position for former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler. However, with the partisan nature of Senate confirmations and the narrow Democratic majority in the Senate, it is unclear if the formal qualifications of both nominees will make for relatively straightforward confirmations. We will continue to monitor the confirmation process.