- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation voted 14-12 on Wednesday to advance President Trump’s Federal Communications Commission nominee, Nathan Simington, increasing the likelihood that the FCC will be divided 2-2 along partisan lines on Inauguration Day.

FCC chair Ajit Pai said this week he would exit in January, which raised the stakes for Senate Republicans to confirm Mr. Simington before the inauguration or risk handing control of the FCC over to Democrats when presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden is expected to take office.

Mr. Pai launched a review of Section 230 in October, and Senate Democrats forecast Mr. Simington as a staunch ally of Mr. Trump on issues involving Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects social media companies from legal liability for content posted by users on their platforms.

During Wednesday’s hearing advancing Mr. Simington’s nomination, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, labeled Mr. Simington’s nomination an, “assault on the integrity and independence of the FCC.”

“Mr. Simington has stated his position, indeed, has worked on an issue that will come before the FCC. His independence is very much in dispute and that’s why I’ve asked him to recuse himself on issues relating to Section 230 but more broadly it is the independence of this agency itself that is at stake,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “I fear the outcome of this nomination will be in fact a deadlock of the commission in the middle of a national crisis. Perhaps the telecommunications and media companies want that kind of deadlock. They may wish for an FCC that is absent and neutralized, but we face right now a national emergency both a pandemic and an economic crisis that requires this independent agency to be more active than ever in protecting consumers and our telecommunications.”

If the FCC is deadlocked 2-2 when Mr. Biden is expected to take office, then January’s Georgia Senate runoff elections could affect how long Mr. Biden would be forced to wait to gain control of the FCC and install his preferred agency head.

No date has yet been set for a full Senate vote on Mr. Simington’s nomination.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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