Letter to Democratic Leadership: Remove Senator Cantwell as chair of Commerce

Posted February 3, 2022, 12:59 PM

February 3, 2022

The Honorable Charles Schumer
Democratic Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer,

Ever since the Trump administration effectively gutted the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and repealed common-sense net neutrality protections and broadband authority that millions of people fought for, Democrats have been promising to restore them.

Democratic leadership repeatedly said that if Democrats took control of the Senate they would move quickly to get the FCC back to work protecting the public––more important now than ever during the ongoing pandemic. The Biden administration also made this a campaign promise.

But Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), in her role as chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, has been actively and egregiously preventing Democrats from making good on those promises. She has repeatedly caved to disingenuous opposition from Republicans and industry lobbyists, leading to inexcusable delays in the confirmation of highly qualified FCC nominee Gigi Sohn. Additionally, her role in securing an unjustified recusal from Ms. Sohn sets a dangerous precedent for President Biden’s nominees across the government. 

When the FCC repealed net neutrality, Leader Schumer said in a statement that lawmakers who did not vote to restore it “gave a green light to the big ISPs to charge middle-class Americans, small business owners, schools, rural Americans, and communities of color more to use the internet.” Now, Democrats are in charge of the House, the Senate and the White House. There is no one else to blame. Senator Maria Cantwell’s actions are inexcusable, and they are actively harming marginalized communities for whom access to an affordable, open Internet is a necessity, not a luxury. 

Fight for the Future has been one of the most prominent grassroots organizations fighting alongside Democrats to restore net neutrality. We’ve helped drive millions of emails, comments, and phone calls to legislators and regulators in support of Internet freedom and equity. In my role as Fight for the Future’s director, I have stood shoulder to shoulder at press events with Leader Schumer while he publicly promised that Democrats would restore net neutrality. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I am outraged by the treatment that Gigi Sohn, the first openly LGBTQ+ nominee to the FCC, has received at the hands of the Senate Commerce Committee. Gigi has the support of more than 250 organizations, including leading civil rights, public interest, LGBTQ+, and human rights groups.

Given the circumstances, we call on Senate Leadership to immediately remove Senator Maria Cantwell from her position as chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. She has proven herself to be more interested in pandering to the broadcast and telecom industry and their Republican enablers than fulfilling Democrats’ promise to restore net neutrality and a functioning FCC. Cantwell should be stripped of her position and quickly replaced with someone who will actually do their job and fight for the public interest by quickly confirming President Biden’s historic and well qualified nominee to the FCC. 

Sincerely,

Evan Greer
Director, Fight for the Future
she/her/hers