Split Senate panel advances Biden’s FCC, FTC nominees
The Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday advanced President Biden’s nominees to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in two tie votes split along party lines.
Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) returned to the Senate before the vote, after roughly a month-long absence while recovering from a stroke, giving Democrat’s the votes they needed to push forward the long-delayed nominees.
He was met with a round of applause from committee members, and welcoming comments from members on both sides of the aisle.
But a warm welcome for Luján was the end of the bipartisan consensus during Thursday’s markup. Republicans continued to push back on FCC nominee Gigi Sohn and FTC nominee Alvaro Bedoya, both of whom would give their respective commissions a Democratic majority.
Republicans had grilled Sohn in two hearings ahead of Thursday’s vote.
Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) commended Sohn on her “willingness” to engage with committee members, but said the “vetting process clarified she’s not the right choice to fill this vacancy.”
Republicans have hit Sohn over her ties to Locast, a discontinued nonprofit streaming service that let users view livestreams of television, and a recent confidential settlement involving the nonprofit and broadcasters.
She directly addressed the concerns during her second round of questions last month, saying she had “no financial liability stemming from the lawsuit” and had not negotiated the settlement.
The main sticking point Republicans raised over FTC nominee Alvaro Bedoya was previous comments he’s made critical of conservative media.
As the nominees await a full confirmation by the Senate, the FCC and FTC remain split along party lines limiting some of the actions Democratic chairs are looking to advance.
For example, the FCC has been barred from pushing forward action to reinstate Obama-era net neutrality laws.
Free Press Action, one of the advocacy groups that had pressured Senate Democrats to take swift action on the nominees, said it is now key for a quick vote on the Senate floor.
“We’ve waited over a year for a fully functional FTC and FCC. We can’t let cynical political maneuvers from obstructionist lawmakers and industry-aligned hacks further delay Bedoya and Sohn’s ability to serve people everywhere. There’s so much important work ahead, and having both of them in place is essential to getting it all done,” Free Press Action VP of Policy and General Counsel Matt Wood said in a statement.
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