Senate Commerce Tackles Biden Telecom Picks

Today the Senate Commerce Committee held a markup and nomination hearing to consider multiple of Biden’s nominations for key positions in the Department of Commerce, the FCC and others who will be instrumental in implementing the administration’s telecommunications policies.

First Round: Votes!

The Committee began with a vote on the nominations of Jessica Rosenworcel to serve another term as Commissioner at the FCC and Alvaro Bedoya to serve as the 5th commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission. The Committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of Rosenworcel – whom Biden plans to designate as Chair of the FCC – for a full vote on the Senate floor. The nomination of Alvaro Bedoya was split 14-14 in the Committee and will now require a discharge petition before coming up for a full Senate vote.

Bedoya’s confirmation would return the FTC back to a democrat majority and will be key to implementing the administration’s agenda of having the FTC to work more voraciously on privacy and competition among tech companies.

Rosenworcel’s nomination passed with relative ease where republican Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-AL) was supportive of Rosenworcel, making it clear that “despite not agreeing with her on every issue, Rosenworcel is experienced… responsive and engaged with the Committee”.

Second Round: Question Time.

The markup then transitioned to hearing where the Committee examined four nominees, particularly FCC nominee Gigi Sohn and NTIA nominee Alan Davidson.

Ms. Sohn was questioned heavily for past tweets where she made critical remarks about conservative news organizations, sometimes calling for their censorship. Senators Blunt (R-MO), Cruz (R-TX), and Sullivan (R-AK) were particularly concerned about the issue, where Senator Sullivan called it “immediately disqualifying”. Senator Cruz put up for display several of Sohn’s tweets. Sohn defended them as being made in the capacity of working in a public interest role.

Senator Blackburn (R-TN) sparred with Ms. Sohn on multiple issues, particularly on the impact that regulation has on investment. Blackburn pushed back on Ms. Sohn after she remarked that regulation doesn’t have an impact.

Senator Blackburn also got NTIA nominee Alan Davidson to commit to inventorying federal spectrum usage. This has been a key issue for industry and public interest groups concerned about the wasteful use of federal spectrum, an extremely valuable resource for technologies like 5G.

Sohn’s nomination is expected to be less clear than Rosenworcel’s. A coalition of 18 public interest groups released a letter in opposition of Sohn. Some have tried to insinuate that there is a split among the GOP in their support for Sohn because of support from conservative news organizations like OANN however republicans senators were very unified in their skepticism of Sohn.

Photo Credit: Senate Commerce Committee