N.M. Senator’s Stroke Briefly Postpones Sohn Hearing


Updated at 3:35pm Eastern

As first reported by Communications Daily via Twitter late Tuesday, considerations of the nomination of Gigi Sohn to serve as a Democratic Commissioner on the FCC — along with two other nominations — were removed from the agenda for today’s Executive Session of the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee.

With confirmation of the report yet to arrive as Midnight struck in Washington, daybreak brought the reason for the last-minute agenda change: An influential Senator had suffered a stroke, but is expected to fully recover.

Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N. Mex.) on January 27 suffered a stroke. He underwent brain surgery and is expected to fully recover, representatives of the legislator said Tuesday.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Luján was diagnosed with a stroke in the cerebellum, which is in the back of the brain. “Decompressive” surgery was performed to relieve pressure on the brain at University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. A full recovery can take from a few weeks to a couple of months.

Luján is 49 years old and in his first term as a U.S. Senator.

While Luján’s recovery time could take weeks, Sohn’s nomination hearing has been delayed by just one week. Communications Daily reported on the February 9 hearing date just before 3pm Eastern, and it was a bit of a surprise.

Given the timetable for Luján’s return to Washington, it was expected that a vote on Sohn wouldn’t happen until he was fully back on the job. That’s because a “yes” vote for Sohn from Luján could be pivotal — the support of Sohn is far from bipartisan, with Democrats largely supporting her nomination by the Biden Administration to take the final seat on the Commission and Republicans in unison against her nomination.

Until Luján’s ailment, a 14-14 vote — something that would signal Democratic approval as they are the majority party in the Senate — was anticipated on Sohn’s vote. Luján has been a supporter of Sohn, and without his vote her path to the Commission would most certainly be derailed.

The February 2 hearing was to be Sohn’s second in front of the Senate Commerce Committee, and comes following the Biden Administration’s reaffirmation of its nomination of the “net neutrality” advocate.

Sohn’s role with Locast, where she served as a board member of the “virtual Over-the-Air” television services provider that purported to be a non-profit before a New York Federal judge’s decision led to its demise, remains a bone of contention with Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). However, Sohn has agreed to excuse herself from two specific matters because of a potential conflict of interest or lack of impartiality.

First, Sohn would recuse herself from matters involving retransmission consent or television broadcast copyright for the first three years of her term. Second, Sohn agreed to recuse herself for four years from a docket concerning the rules governing retransmission consent.

That led the NAB to give its affirmative nod to Sohn’s seating as a FCC Commissioner. In contrast, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association is still concerned, wondering why she won’t recuse herself from other matters she has spoken out against. The NCTA’s concern has not let to its formal objection of Sohn’s nomination, however, as it takes an approach similar to that of the NAB.

Also off the February 2 hearing agenda are considerations of the nomination of Mary Boyle to serve as a Commissioner on the National Product Safety Commission and that of Alvaro Bedoya to serve as the Federal Trade Commission’s Commissioner.