Democratic Senators attend weekly caucus luncheon in Washington
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks to reporters following the weekly Democratic caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., November 29, 2022. Reuters

President Joe Biden's nominee for a key fifth seat on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Gigi Sohn, withdrew on Tuesday, dealing a setback for Democrats who have been unable to take control of the telecom regulator for more than two years.

Sohn confirmed Tuesday she was withdrawing after Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said he would vote against confirming her.

"We appreciate Gigi Sohn's candidacy for this important role. She would have brought tremendous intellect and experience," White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday.

Sohn had been a senior aide to Tom Wheeler when he was the FCC chair under President Barack Obama.

Democrats since January 2021 have been unable to command a majority of the five-member FCC, stalling the party's efforts to reinstate landmark net neutrality rules revoked under Republican President Donald Trump. The open internet laws seek to bar internet service providers from blocking or slowing traffic or offering paid fast lanes.

"The FCC deadlock, now over two years long, will remain so for a long time," Sohn said in a statement. "Unfortunately the American people are the real losers here. As someone who has advocated for my entire career for affordable, accessible broadband for every American, it is ironic that the 2-2 FCC will remain sidelined at the most consequential opportunity for broadband in our lifetimes."

Democrats hold a narrow 51-49 majority in the U.S. Senate.

Sohn who was first nominated in October 2021, had her third hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee in February.

Sohn, when she accepted the nomination, said she "could not have imagined that legions of cable and media industry lobbyists, their bought-and-paid-for surrogates, and dark money political groups with bottomless pockets would distort my over 30-year history as a consumer advocate into an absurd caricature of blatant lies."

Republicans in February offered a sweeping denunciation of Sohn on a number of grounds and accused her of misleading Congress, which she rejected.

Many Democrats said Republicans were doing the bidding of powerful telecom companies that did not want to face regulation from the FCC.

In July 2021, Biden signed an executive order encouraging the FCC to reinstate the open internet net neutrality rules.

At least two other Democrats were undecided on Sohn's nomination, including Senator Jacky Rosen.

Gigi Sohn FCC nomination hearing, in Washington
Gigi Sohn testifies during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing, examining her nomination to be appointed Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C., February 9, 2022. Pete Marovich/Pool via REUTERS. Reuters