Biden ended months of suspense last week by announcing two Democratic picks for the FCC, nominating Chair Jessica Rosenworcel for a new five-year term on the commission and net neutrality activist Gigi Sohn to fill its open seat. Republican senators largely said they can live with Rosenworcel — but GOP leaders say they’re drawing the line at Sohn and her perceived regulatory bent. And they’re not on board with Democrats’ push to rush the confirmations through. Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic commissioner since 2012 and previously a top Senate aide to former Senate Commerce Chair Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, has named connecting students to broadband as her top priority. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images “Sohn, obviously, her views are going to be very far apart from where mine are on all the issues,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune told POLITICO. “She’s very left, she’s going to be a heavy hand in regulation, very heavy in net neutrality.” “She’s going to be very much, I think, Big Government stepping on the scales,” the South Dakota Republican added. Democrats could still jam through Sohn’s confirmation even in the face of unified Republican opposition, but only if their entire caucus sticks together. That means the outcome could come down to the same two Democratic senators who have played an outsize role in thwarting liberals’ hopes for expanding Medicare, hiking taxes on billionaires and providing Americans with free community college and parental leave. While the two West Virginia and Arizona Democrats are on record as backing Rosenworcel, neither has said a word yet on Sohn, a former top adviser at the Obama-era FCC and co-founder of advocacy group Public Knowledge. Sinema has historically joined Republicans in fights over FCC policies, including opposing net neutrality. Spokespeople for both Manchin and Sinema declined to comment on Sohn. Democrats have precious little floor time to get the nominations through by year’s end — on top of their December deadlines for avoiding a government shutdown or U.S. debt default, or their efforts to enact Biden’s infrastructure and social spending bills. Some Sohn supporters are not panicking yet, however. Evan Greer, who helps helm the progressive tech advocacy group Fight for the Future, said she believes Sohn could even score some GOP votes. Although Sinema opposed net neutrality legislation — and Fight for the Future tarred her as “corrupt” for doing so two years ago — Greer said that doesn't necessarily mean the senator would “intentionally kneecap the FCC in the middle of an ongoing pandemic, and block the first LGBTQ nominee to the position in the process.” “Gigi is seen as a progressive, but really she's just a deeply principled advocate for the public interest,” she added. “She's been around forever, talks to both industry and civil society, and is seen as a reasonable and thoughtful person who wants to get things done.” What’s behind the GOP anxiety Sohn has long had a reputation as a shrewd operator within telecom circles, adept at pulling together coalitions in support of causes such as fighting industry consolidation and empowering local governments to build their own internet networks. But the same virtues that win her progressive applause startle the telecom industry. Those fears emerged this summer as word spread that Biden was eyeing Sohn for FCC chair, a possibility that some Senate vote-counters deemed challenging. The main GOP concern about Sohn is the same one that bedeviled the final hours of this summer’s infrastructure bill negotiations: the prospect that Democrats may want to regulate the prices that broadband providers like Comcast charge customers. That possibility is one reason Republicans have spent years opposing net neutrality, which they worry would lead to the FCC assuming more regulatory power over broadband networks. The net neutrality rules that the FCC adopted in 2015, with Sohn’s support, specifically avoided rate regulation. (The agency’s Trump-era leadership repealed the policy two years later.) But she favors tightening government powers over broadband and restricting practices like price gouging. The confirmation process will give senators a chance to drill down on just what policies the nominees might support. Sohn’s nomination is “more problematic” for Republicans than Rosenworcel’s, said Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee, which will vet both nominees. In an interview, he said Sohn’s past statements and positions “could prove to be of concern to members of the committee.” In contrast, Rosenworcel — a former FCC and Commerce Committee staffer with wide support on the Hill — has at times thwarted liberal policy proposals that Sohn supported. Those include an Obama-era plan at the FCC that would have created more competition in the market for cable set-top boxes. A mix of other Senate Republicans, however, weren’t immediately critical when asked about Sohn a . . . read the full article here.