Posted by Chris Alarie on Tue, 03/07/2023 - 14:11
The long, unusual saga of President Joe Biden’s attempts to fully staff the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken another unexpected twist with Gigi Sohn’s announcement that she has withdrawn her nomination to fill the long vacant fifth commissioner seat. Sohn announced that she was withdrawing after Democratic Senator Joe Manchin stated that he would not vote for her confirmation. Combined with a unified rejection by the republicans in the Senate, this essentially assured that Sohn did not have enough votes for confirmation.
Under normal circumstances, the president’s party would have a 3 to 2 majority on the FCC. But President Biden waited nine months before nominating Sohn, an unprecedented delay. Sohn’s confirmation faced an unusual level of opposition, in part due to extensive lobbying by the telecom industry. This opposition managed to stall Sohn’s confirmation for more than a year, leading Biden to renominate her in January of this year. Manchin’s stated opposition to her candidacy finally closed the door for good on hopes for her confirmation.
In her statement announcing her withdrawal, Sohn decried the “unrelenting, dishonest and cruel attacks on my character and my career as an advocate for the public interest.” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre spoke in favor of Sohn, saying, “We appreciate Gigi Sohn’s candidacy for this important role. She would have brought tremendous talent, intellect and experience, which is why the President nominated her in the first place.”
The White House did not provide any information about who might be nominated in place of Sohn. Until a fifth commissioner is confirmed by the Senate, the president’s agenda remains hamstrung by the FCC’s partisan deadlock.