Biden’s FCC nominee Anna Gomez confirmed, ending prolonged partisan cut up

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The Senate on Thursday confirmed Anna Gomez, President Biden’s pick for the Federal Communications Commission, ending a lengthy partisan split at the regulatory agency and giving Democrats the power to carry out major agenda items.

Senators voted 55-43 to confirm Gomez, an FCC veteran who is a communications policy adviser for the State Department. Gomez will take the third Democratic seat on the five-member commission, which oversees broadband and communications regulation.

The move returns the agency to full strength for the first time under Biden, whose initial pick for the FCC role, Gigi Sohn, withdrew after a contentious 16-month confirmation battle. The impasse has left the agency without a Democratic majority for the entirety of Biden’s term until now.

Consumer advocates said the 2½-year delay hampered the FCC’s ability to carry out critical tasks aimed at protecting Americans from potential abuse by the telecom giants, including reinstating the Obama-era net neutrality regulations, which bar internet service providers from blocking or throttling content.

Gomez’s confirmation could also unlock the agency’s ability to carry out more aggressive oversight of the telecommunications sector, which Biden called for in a 2021 executive order, including potentially imposing more stringent utility-style regulation under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

Biden initially nominated Sohn, another FCC alum and longtime consumer advocate, to the agency’s third Democrat seat in October 2021. Senate Republican leaders sharply criticized Sohn as a “partisan,” citing her past remarks and social media activity on political matters, and conservative groups mounted a broad campaign to tank her nomination.

In March, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) dealt Sohn’s nomination a major blow by publicly opposing her and accusing her of holding “partisan alliances with far-left groups.”

Sohn withdrew hours later, citing what she called “unrelenting, dishonest and cruel attacks” against her spurred on by cable and media industry lobbyists.

Sohn, who would have been the agency’s first openly gay commissioner, said in an interview after withdrawing that she also faced repeated attacks over her sexual identity.

Biden nominated Gomez to fill the seat in June, with the White House touting her “extensive experience in domestic and international communications law and policy” in its announcement.

Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, expressed reservations about Gomez’s views during her June nomination hearing, saying he was not “comfortable” that she “possesses the independence and regulatory humility necessary for confirmation.” But the panel advanced her nomination in July.

Once sworn in, Gomez will become the first Latina to serve on the commission since Gloria Tristani stepped down from the agency in 2001, according to the National Hispanic Media Coalition advocacy group. Hispanic civil rights groups had long called on Biden to fill the FCC’s third seat with a Latina or Latino nominee, even as Sohn’s nomination was still pending.

Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), chair of the Senate Commerce communications subcommittee and one of a half-dozen Hispanic members in the Senate, said he was “proud” that Gomez’s confirmation would bring a “strong Latina” to the FCC, which has spearheaded efforts to boost diversity in the media industry.

“To me, diversity matters with thought and experience in this space,” Luján told The Washington Post in a brief interview Wednesday.

During the Trump administration, the Republican-led FCC spearheaded sweeping efforts to deregulate the telecommunications sector, moves that Democrats are now expected to reverse.

Ahead of Thursday’s vote, Cruz said he “strongly opposed” Gomez’s nomination during a floor speech, arguing that a Democratic majority would allow the FCC to pursue a “radical left-wing agenda, including investment killing and job killing so-called net neutrality rules.” The remarks offer a preview of the partisan sparring likely to ensue once Gomez is sworn in.

But while no Republican backed Sohn’s nomination in committee last year, five GOP lawmakers voted to confirm Gomez on the floor Thursday: Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Susan Collins (Maine), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Todd Young (Ind.).

Gomez also secured the support of key independents and Democrats seen as potential swing votes while Sohn’s nomination was pending, including Manchin, who opposed the prior nominee. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) did not vote.

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