Biden nominates Rosenworcel for chair of FCC, Sohn for commissioner spot

If chosen, Rosenworcel would be the first woman ever to hold the position.
Written by Jonathan Greig, Contributor

US President Joe Biden nominated Jessica Rosenworcel to be the first female Chair of the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, also announcing the nomination of Gigi Sohn as the agency's newest Democratic commissioner.

Rosenworcel has been a commissioner at the FCC since 2012 and has been serving as chair on an acting basis since Ajit Pai resigned in January.

On Twitter, Rosenworcel said it was the "honor of a lifetime" to be chosen for the position and thanked Biden for the nomination. 

"I wouldn't be here without those who came before and paved the way. Looking forward to working with Gigi Sohn and Alan Davidson so that modern communications reach all," Rosenworcel said, referencing the nomination of Davidson as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. 

Both nominations would make history if they survive the Senate confirmation process. Sohn would be the first openly LGBTIQ+ Commissioner in the history of the FCC if confirmed.

The New York Times reported that more than 30 congresswomen vouched for Rosenworcel and urged Biden to choose her for the position. 

Rosenworcel spent six years as a staff member for FCC commissioner Michael Copps before working on the Senate Commerce Committee. She was eventually nominated to the FCC as a commissioner by President Obama in 2011 and was reappointed by President Trump in 2017. 

First reported by Politico, the move will give Democrats on the FCC a majority, allowing them to reinstate net neutrality rules pushed during the Obama administration and rolled back during the Trump administration. 

Senate Democrats have also noted that there is $65 billion in broadband funding spread across multiple agencies including the FCC that was part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 and Rosenworcel would play a key role in how that money is dispersed. 

Biden has faced significant backlash from his own party for waiting this long to appoint a Democratic commissioner and chair to the FCC. The decision has left the crucial government body unable to function for months because of the 2-2 stalemate between Democratic and Republican commissioners. 

Politico noted that only Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter waited this long into their first year to appoint a new head of the FCC. Biden has dealt with additional scrutiny because the decision to wait this long may end up giving the Republican commissioners at the FCC a 2-1 majority once Rosenworcel's term ends in January. 

Both Rosenworcel and Sohn have to be confirmed by the deeply-divided Senate, leaving many wondering whether both nominations could be pushed through before the end of December. 

Last month, 17 Democratic senators sent a letter to Biden questioning why there was such a lengthy delay in nominating Rosenworcel.

"The decision to nominate Acting Chair Rosenworcel to a full term as Commissioner and designate her as the permanent Chair of the FCC can no longer be delayed. We urge your administration to appoint her to this role as quickly as possible. Further delay simply puts at risk the major broadband goals that we share and that Congress has worked hard to advance as part of your administration's agenda," the senators wrote.

"Her continued leadership as Acting Chair has already demonstrated she will be successful at the job, and further delays will unnecessarily imperil our shared goal of achieving ubiquitous broadband connectivity. There is no better qualified or more competent person to be appointed Commissioner and permanent Chair of the FCC than Jessica Rosenworcel, and we urge you to move forward with her nomination as soon as possible."

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