Nathan Simington, Trump FCC nominee, confirmed by Senate; tees up divided commission in 2021

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The Senate voted 49-46 Tuesday to confirm President Trump’s Federal Communications Commission nominee, Nathan Simington, setting up an FCC expected to be divided 2-2 along partisan lines on Inauguration Day.

Senate Republicans’ push for Mr. Simington’s confirmation came as the looming exit of FCC chair Ajit Pai raised the stakes of the latest FCC confirmation battle. Mr. Pai has announced his intent to exit the FCC in January, which means control of the commission would have flipped to Democrats absent Mr. Simington’s confirmation.

By confirming Mr. Simington on Tuesday, Senate Republicans have delayed Democrats’ anticipated control of the FCC until presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden would appoint a new chair of the commission.

Democrats have strenuously objected to Mr. Simington’s nomination as an assault on the independence of the FCC because of their expectation he will aim to implement policies aligned with Mr. Trump.

Senate Democrats have taken issue with Mr. Simington over Democrats’ expectation that he is an ally of Mr. Trump on policy involving Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects social media companies from legal liability for content posted by users on their platforms.

“This nomination though is dangerous on more than any single issue because it threatens the independence and political integrity of the FCC,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, on the Senate floor on Tuesday. “The political independence and integrity of the FCC depends on its balance and normally nominations are paired politically to reflect the bipartisan balance of the agency. What we will have at the FCC now is potential gridlock.”

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