The Senate on Thursday moved toward confirming a third Democratic commissioner to the FCC, giving the party a working majority on the commission almost three years into President Joe Biden’s presidential term.
Anna Gomez, a telecommunications attorney, was nominated by Biden last May. The Senate voted 55-43 to cut off debate and proceed to a final vote on her nomination, which will take place later on Thursday.
The FCC has been deadlocked 2-2, something that has prevented the agency from taking up more contentious issues like net neutrality rules, which were rolled back during the Republican majority of President Donald Trump’s administration.
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Biden’s previous nominee for the FCC, Gigi Sohn, withdrew her nomination in March after more than a year of a contentious confirmation process. Telecom lobbyists and dark money groups waged a campaign against her, while commentators and editorial writers at Rupert Murdoch-owned media outlets, including Fox News, the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, railed against her, in a number of cases distorting her record on issues like free speech. Sohn has been a consumer advocate who in the past has been at odds with Murdoch on issues like media ownership, while she has been a champion of a robust set of net neutrality rules. She served as counselor to Obama-era FCC chairman Tom Wheeler when the commission voted to reclassify broadband service, something that gave the agency more oversight over the way that internet providers controlled the flow of traffic on their networks.
Gomez serves as a senior advisor for international information and communications policy in the State Department’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy. She also served as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Deputy Administrator from 2009 to 2013.
With her confirmation, Democrats will have a 3-2 majority on the commission. In addition to issues like net neutrality, the agency likely will give greater scrutiny to proposed mergers. Even with the deadlock, the FCC sent Standard General’s proposed acquisition of Tegna to an administrative law judge, something that killed the deal.
The FCC’s tougher stance toward mergers reflects similar scrutiny at the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department. The regulatory environment has been a caveat to ongoing speculation of industry consolidation.
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