By Rich Sill
The Senate Commerce Committee deadlocked once again at 14-14 on the questions of whether to move the nominations of Gigi Sohn and Alvaro Bedoya to the Senate floor for a confirmation vote. To proceed, the full Senate must vote to discharge the stalled nominations from the committee; a whole host of hurdles typically not seen for these types of nominations. The complications surrounding Bedoya’s confirmation to the Federal Trade Commission and Sohn’s confirmation to the Federal Communications Commission are of the Biden Administration’s own making – delayed nominations and poor vetting. Sohn’s unusual recusal agreement and subsequent second hearing, should serve as clear communication that the Biden Administration needs to return to the drawing board.
Republicans have repeatedly opposed both nominations. A coalition of advocacy organizations voiced their opposition to Bedoya’s confirmation ahead of the committee vote. If confirmed, Bedoya would bring a record of hyper-partisan, extremist advocacy to the FTC and would steer the agency in a direction of over-reaching and harmful regulatory policies. Likewise, Sohn’s ethics issues call into question her qualifications to join the FCC.
The signers of the coalition letter stated that Bedoya’s confirmation would further shift the FTC in a more partisan, non-consensus, and unprecedented direction. As part of the FTC, he would be a progressive ally for Chair Lina Khan, thus giving her a greater ability to transform the FTC, doing away with its rules, hamstringing businesses with red tape, and dismantling our market-driven economy. After the vote on Bedoya’s nomination, Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) stated for the record that he still opposes Bedoya’s confirmation.
The Republican opposition to Sohn’s nomination remained strong Senator John Thune (R-SD) submitted for the record a letter by former democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp opposing Sohn’s nomination due to her disregard for connecting the unconnected in rural America. According to Heitkamp, Sohn has downplayed the rural digital divide and advocated for over building rather than offering access to Americans who do not have any choices for broadband service. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said a principal concern with Sohn’s nomination is her significant willingness to use government power against political enemies as a tool of censorship. He said the FCC is a dangerous place for a partisan who is willing to try to muzzle those with which they disagree. It is a problematic precedent for any committee to move forward a nominee who has serious ethical questions and lacked transparency.
The road to confirmation for both nominees remain rocky. With Senate floor time required on both nominees in a 50-50 Senate and a Supreme Court nominee already taking up valuable airtime, the likelihood of the Senate spending floor time on a lengthy discharge petition is questionable.