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Enough Is Enough: The Senate Should Stop Playing Games And Confirm Gigi Sohn

By Christopher Shelton for Techdirt

Joe Biden entered office a year ago with a mandate to end corporate control of our government by establishing programs to benefit working families and by appointing qualified public servants to execute and oversee those programs.

We anticipated all along that Mitch McConnell would resort to his usual tactics and use the Senate filibuster rules to undermine President Biden's legislative agenda. Appointments should have been a different story. Nearly a decade has passed since Senate Democrats put an end to the filibuster for executive nominations, yet Republicans, on behalf of their corporate sponsors, continue to abuse the confirmation process, preventing President Biden from fulfilling his promises to the American people. Senate Democrats should recognize these games for what they are, stop enabling the obstruction, and move forward on approving President Biden's highly qualified nominees.

Take, for example, the nomination of Gigi Sohn to the Federal Communications Commission. Sohn's strong credentials include co-founding the communications policy advocacy organization Public Knowledge and serving as counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. She is known as a long-time, tireless advocate for the expansion of affordable internet access - one of the key issues on the Democrats' agenda. There is currently a vacant seat on the FCC, and without a full commission it will be difficult to advance the policies necessary to expand affordable broadband service to the millions of American families left on the wrong side of the digital divide.

One person - Sen. Roger Wicker, the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation - is standing in the way.

Sen. Wicker is promoting the interests of his big corporate campaign donors by preventing a pro-consumer, pro-worker majority at the Federal Communications Commission. Ever since Gigi Sohn was nominated, he has come up with bogus reasons to delay her confirmation vote. During her confirmation hearing she answered questions for hours. She provided reams of written materials and followed up with answers to additional questions. Six weeks later, Wicker asked for yet more documents and suddenly announced that the committee needed to hold yet another confirmation hearing.

Why did he not request such documents in a timely manner? Why did he not submit written questions for the record, standard practice for the committee? Why did he not accept the conclusions of government lawyers who carefully reviewed the very documents he claims to now seek? Because it's not about getting answers. It's about standing in the way of a highly qualified nominee simply because he doesn't like the outcome of the last Presidential election. Sen. Wicker wants an FCC majority that puts corporate profits first, not one that considers what is best for consumers and workers in the industry and that listens to the majority of Americans - Republican and Democrat - who support net neutrality and universal broadband access.

Make no mistake. This is yet another Republican attempt to undermine our democratic system and the functioning of the federal government. They might not be scaling the Capitol walls, wearing face paint, threatening to hang elected officials who don't kowtow to their demands, and publicly parading confederate flags in the halls of the Capitol, but Senate Republicans are trying to undermine the 2020 election results by playing every game possible to prevent a duly elected Administration from having qualified nominees serving on federal agencies. We have seen time and time again that Republicans will use every trick in the book to prevent oversight of their powerful corporate benefactors.

Unfortunately, after the vote last week by the U.S. Senate, Republican obstructionists will continue to be able to use the legislative filibuster to block critical legislation that will improve the lives of millions of working Americans. But my union helped lead the successful effort during the Obama Administration to eliminate their ability to filibuster qualified and critical nominees so that the federal government can function on behalf of the American people.

That is why Senate Democrats must not give in to these outrageous and egregious efforts to draw out the already long confirmation process for qualified nominees like Gigi Sohn. They must recognize these games for what they are and reject the never ending requests for even more hearings when they have had ample time to ask their questions. Senate Democrats must move forward expeditiously to approve Gigi Sohn and President Biden's other highly qualified nominees.

Christopher M. Shelton is President of the Communications Workers of America (CWA)


Enough Is Enough: The Senate Should Stop Playing Games And Confirm Gigi Sohn (Techdirt, Jan. 25, 2022)