The Senate Commerce Committee announced late on Tuesday that it had pulled the scheduled votes on the nominations of Gigi Sohn to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Alvaro Bedoya to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Sohn and Bedoya, both of whom would give their respective agencies a 3-2 Democratic majority, were scheduled to have their votes before the Senate Commerce Committee today.
A committee spokesperson said the votes were pulled after Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), one of the members of the Senate Commerce Committee, suffered a stroke last week. Luján is expected to make a full recovery.
The 28-member Senate Commerce Committee is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Both Sohn and Bedoya will almost assuredly need all of the Democratic votes on the committee to advance to a full vote in the Senate, meaning going forward with a vote with Lujan’s absence risked not having the necessary votes to advance the two nominees.
The spokesperson said today’s schedule “has been recalibrated to take into consideration the need for all Democratic votes in order to move certain nominees,” noting that “the speedy recovery of Sen. Lujan remains [our] first and foremost priority.”
Sohn and Bedoya both had confirmation hearings last year. While the Senate Commerce Committee voted on Bedoya’s nomination, landing on a 14-14 tie, they never held a vote for Sohn. Bedoya’s nomination was sent to the full Senate, but never was taken up for a vote.
Because of that, President Joe Biden needed to re-nominate both of them for the FCC and FTC roles earlier this year.
If they are confirmed, both Sohn and Bedoya would give the FCC and FTC Democratic majorities. That would allow the FCC to tackle a number of issues that would require a party-line vote, such as restoring net neutrality rules and authority over the broadband industry. Meanwhile, the FTC could start a rulemaking process on issues like data privacy and facial recognition.
The Senate Commerce Committee spokesperson did not say when they were aiming to reschedule votes for Sohn and Bedoya.
Craig Aaron, the co-CEO of Free Press Action, called the votes being pulled “disappointing” in a tweet on Tuesday evening.
“Disappointing because these highly qualified nominees should have sailed through months ago. Further delay just keeps these essential agencies from getting to work,” Aaron tweeted.