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Sohn withdraws after Manchin opposes her FCC confirmation

Biden tried three times to win confirmation

Sohn appears at her confirmation hearing in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on February 14, 2023.
Sohn appears at her confirmation hearing in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on February 14, 2023. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Gigi Sohn withdrew her nomination to become a member of the Federal Communications Commission after Sen. Joe Manchin III on Tuesday said he would oppose her confirmation.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed Sohn’s withdrawal at a news conference. “She would have brought tremendous intellect and experience” to the FCC, Jean-Pierre said, adding that Sohn was a leading advocate for consumers.

Jean-Pierre said the White House doesn’t have any updates about possible nominees.

Manchin’s opposition left only the narrowest of paths for Sohn to get through the Senate. 

“The FCC must remain above the toxic partisanship that Americans are sick and tired of, and Ms. Sohn has clearly shown she is not the person to do that,” Manchin, D-W.Va., said in a statement. 

President Joe Biden renominated Sohn to the FCC for the third time this year after she was unable to win Senate confirmation in earlier tries. She appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee in February for a confirmation hearing. Her confirmation would have given the FCC a full five-person board.

Sohn, a counselor at the FCC for three years ending in 2016, was first nominated by Biden for an open FCC seat in 2021. She has faced stiff opposition from some industry groups and Republican lawmakers who say she is too radical and accused her of unethical practices.

The charge of ethical problems stems from her work on the board of a company that attempted to operate a nonprofit streaming service. After losing a copyright lawsuit filed by major television network stations, the service settled for $700,000, far less than the $32 million that the companies had sought. Sohn signed that settlement just as her previous nomination was announced. Sohn has denied allegations of unethical practice.

The Democrats’ pickup of one Senate seat this year gives them a committee majority that could advance Sohn to the floor, a contrast to last year, but Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has signaled his party’s determination to stop her, saying on the floor last month that she “is no more qualified to be installed on the FCC than she was back in 2021 or 2022.”

During the February hearing, Sohn said industry opponents hiding behind “dark-money groups and surrogates” were opposing her candidacy because she favored consumers and would help expand broadband connections at lower costs, threatening established businesses.

Manchin said Sohn, if confirmed, had agreed to recuse herself from some broadcast-related decisions because of her prior activities and that led “to questions about whether she can adequately serve as FCC Commissioner if walled off from parts of the agency’s work.”

Manchin called on Biden to nominate another candidate who can win broader support in the Senate.

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