The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee today postponed a scheduled vote on the nomination of Gigi Sohn to become FCC commissioner, as a Democratic member of the committee was sidelined with health problems.
A committee spokesperson said the scheduled vote on the Sohn FCC nomination was pulled after committee member Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., suffered a stroke. According to his staff, Sen. Luján is expected to make a full recovery and is still recuperating in a hospital in New Mexico.
In his absence, the committee reworked the list of nominations to be considered at today’s hearing. The committee spokesperson did not say when the panel aimed to reschedule a vote on the Sohn nomination, but said that “Sen. Lujan’s speedy recovery remains [our] first and foremost priority.”
Sohn’s nomination has faced persistent hurdles since President Biden nominated her to the FCC in October 2021. In December, Senate Commerce held a confirmation hearing, but Sohn has been waiting since then for a committee vote.
Some Republican members of the committee have objected to the nomination of Sohn, who was a key advisor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, and headed the left-leaning Public Knowledge think thank from 2001 to 2013.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who is ranking member of the committee, has expressed concerns over a possible conflict of interest regarding her time on the board of Locasat, a nonprofit that streamed broadcast TV signals and later shut down after losing a copyright infringement lawsuit.
Most recently, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) has urged the committee to reject the nomination. In a letter sent on Tuesday to committee Chairwoman, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., DGA asserted that Sohn’s “long standing record and hostility towards copyright law is inconsistent with the role of the FCC.”
At the same time, Sohn’s nomination has drawn at least qualified support from several communications industry trade groups whose members are impacted by FCC policy and rulemakings.
Given Republican opposition to the nomination, it’s likely that the committee’s Democratic leadership wants all hands on deck for the eventual nomination vote.
Sohn’s confirmation is vital to Democratic commissioners controlling the FCC. Absent approval of her nomination, the FCC remains split 2-2 between Democratic and Republican commissioners, leaving the agency less likely to tackle more controversial issues like media ownership or net neutrality rules.