Enlarge /. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) At an FCC Senate Commerce Committee hearing on June 24, 2020.
Senate Republicans are rushing to validate President Donald Trump's candidate for the Federal Communications Commission to create a 2-2 deadlock for the Biden FCC.
In a 14-12 party vote today, the Senate Trade Committee approved Trump's nomination for Nathan Simington. If Simington is ratified by the Senate, the FCC would have been bogged down with two Republicans and two Democrats following the impending resignations of Chairman Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly. To get a 3-2 majority in the FCC, President-elect Joe Biden would have to nominate a Democrat after taking office and hope that the Senate will confirm the nomination.
Senate Democrats said today that Simington does not qualify as an FCC commissioner and that he misrepresented his work in the Trump administration during the committee's approval process.
"I will continue this fight in the Senate," said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). "I will continue to do everything I can to hold and oppose this nomination because I think Mr. Simington lacks the qualifications and independence required of an FCC commissioner."
Simington's approval would "put a standstill in the Commission in the midst of a national crisis," said Blumenthal. "Perhaps the telecommunications and media companies want that type of deadlock. They might want an FCC that is absent and neutralized. But we are currently facing a national emergency, both a pandemic and an economic crisis, that requires this independent agency What is more active than the fact is that Mr Simington has failed to give this committee an assurance that it will have the openness and independence it needs. "
The candidate supports Trump's "attack on the first amendment"
No Republican Senator offered any justification for Simington's confirmation at today's meeting, which included three nominations, including Simington's, and lasted less than 15 minutes. Blumenthal and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) Pointed out that Simington was only nominated after Trump took over the renomination from O'Rielly, who did not support Trump's attempted crackdown on Twitter and Facebook over alleged anti-conservative biases.
"It appears that Mr. Simington was nominated for only one purpose: to support the President's unjustifiable attack on the First Amendment," said Blumenthal. "It actually appears to be his only qualification – his reason for replacing Commissioner O & # 39; Rielly."
As Cantwell said, O'Rielly's "nomination was reportedly drawn in retaliation for Mr. O'Rielly for expressing his views on issues with the FCC trying to rule on Section 230 at the behest of the President . " The process "raises real questions as to why the White House chose Mr Simington, especially given his lack of experience with the FCC, its legal responsibilities and many important issues with the agency," she said.
Simington is a senior advisor to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which has filed with the FCC for a new interpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to provide legal protection for social media platforms for hosting third-party content in the event of failure Restrict platforms or change content they deem objectionable. Simington played a role in drafting and promoting this plan.
Blumenthal said he asked Simington to withdraw from Section 230 proceedings of the FCC, but Simington made no commitment.
Simington campaigned for Fox News
Newly revealed emails indicated that Simington "reached out to Fox News this summer to" hire "host Laura Ingraham to support President Donald Trump's quest to make it easier to use social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to sue, "Politico reported last week. "Simington … wrote that the popular Fox News host could help get the FCC to act on Trump's proposal before Election Day."
Blumenthal and Cantwell said the emails proved Simington downplayed his role in the Trump administration's Section 230 proposal. Simington reportedly claimed during his nomination hearing that he played a "minor role" in the NTIA's petition to the FCC.
"We learned that he was trying to win Fox News to & # 39; get the FCC on board faster, thereby ensuring a freer and fairer social media landscape for this fall elections & # 39;" Blumenthal said today, quoting Simington's email to a Fox news agent. "Then he described the reluctance of social media companies as a concern for both the presidency and the elimination. He didn't pass this on to the committee, he didn't tell us about it, Mr. Chairman. So I asked Mr. Simington again and received a non-response. "
The candidate "misrepresented his participation"
Blumenthal also said Simington's answers to questions from both Democratic and Republican senators were "inadequate, incomplete and evasive".
Cantwell said there were "real questions … about Mr. Simington's openness to the committee during this confirmation process. We now know from his own emails that he was involved in urging the FCC to approve the president's tender." Section 230 has misrepresented. "
"The FCC and the NTIA must simply not be an instrument for political bullying," said Blumenthal. "It is an attack on the integrity and independence of the FCC and this committee must take that threat seriously."
In some cases, FCC nominations have been approved in pairs, with a Democrat and Republican joining the commission at the same time. It did so in August 2017, when Republican Brendan Carr and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel were confirmed on the same day. Previously, Rosenworcel had to leave the commission for about seven months because the Republican-led Senate refused to reaffirm it. This gave Trump a 2-1 FCC majority when he took office.
"She had to leave the commission to ensure that President Trump could appoint an accompanying (Republican) FCC candidate, and we should keep that nomination," said Blumenthal.
The sole purpose of Simington's nomination is "to hamper the new Biden administration and its FCC appointees," said Matt Wood, vice president of politics and general counsel for the Free Press media group.
"Nathan Simington is not qualified for this position," said Wood. "He's only here for strong political tactics to reward his loyalty to Trump. Simington was chosen by a now defeated president and then forced upon the Senate. He was chosen not because of his expertise or skills, but rather because of his obvious ability." Willingness to vote on the illegal, unconstitutional and simply bad petition according to § 230, which he co-wrote. "
Fight for the Future, an advocacy group, warned that Simington's nomination was an attempt to prevent the restoration of net neutrality rules and urged people to reach out to their senators to fight back.