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A Painful Reminder. A Moment for Change

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WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee voted to advance the nomination of Nathan Simington to the Federal Communications Commission. If ultimately confirmed by the full Senate, Simington would take the seat of current Republican commissioner Michael O’Rielly, whose term has expired and who must leave the FCC by January.

President Trump first renominated O’Rielly, but later yanked that reappointment after the commissioner expressed rightful reservations about the legality of Trump’s executive order suggesting that the agency regulate online speech under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

In contrast, Simington is perhaps only known for helping to draft and promote to right-wing media the petition to do just that, while briefly working as an adviser to the Trump White House at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Free Press Action Vice President of Policy and General Counsel Matt Wood made the following statement:

“Nathan Simington has zero qualifications for this position. He’s here only as a result of strong-arm political tactics to reward his loyalty to Trump. Hand-picked and then forced on the Senate by a now-defeated president, Simington was not chosen for his expertise or ability, but for his apparent willingness to improperly cast a vote on the unlawful, unconstitutional and just plain bad Section 230 petition that he helped write.

“Yet it seems that Senators McConnell and Wicker have taken up this controversial nomination at the bidding of a lame-duck executive over the misgivings of members of their own party. The sole purpose? Obstructing the incoming Biden administration and its FCC appointees.

“Even the Wall Street Journal could find no reason to justify its endorsement of Simington apart from his ability to gum up the works at the agency. The editorial page roundly criticized Trump’s 230 plan for the FCC yet called for Simington’s appointment because otherwise the Biden administration ‘could immediately get to work.’ It doesn’t get much more blatant and disgusting than that.

“This kind of obstructionism is always childish but during a national health crisis — when phone and internet connections are literal lifelines connecting families to remote work, online education and telemedicine — throwing a wrench in the gears of the agency designed to bridge the digital divide is despicably cruel.

“The committee didn’t need to participate in this Trump temper tantrum. Simington is a poor candidate by any metric, and today’s vote reflects alarming contempt for both the agency he may be foisted upon and the public that agency is meant to serve.

“The Senate must reject this nominee out of hand, even if Leader McConnell is obstinate enough to waste floor time on this exceptionally unserious human stumbling block. And any member of the tenuous Republican majority in the Senate should think twice before prioritizing industry pipe dreams and purposeful gridlock over the serious work the FCC must do to help their constituents back at home.”

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