The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Nathan Simington as a new Republican member of the FCC, a move that threatens to saddle the nation’s foremost telecom regulator with political deadlock at the start of the Biden administration, according to The Washington Post.
The chamber backed Simington on a 49-to-46 vote, installing a new commissioner at the FCC who has pledged “regulatory stability” and expressed an openness to using the agency’s rulemaking powers to explore the way social media sites handle political speech.
Simington’s confirmation comes as the FCC’s GOP chairman, Ajit Pai, is preparing to leave in January. The two staffing moves combined will leave the five-member agency at two Democrats and two Republicans at the start of next year, curtailing the commission’s ability under Joe Biden to carry out the party’s telecom agenda as soon as he is inaugurated as president.
The last-minute race to confirm Simington comes as Trump ratchets up his attacks on Silicon Valley over allegations that it exhibits political bias against conservatives. Trump had initially proposed that Michael O’Rielly, a sitting GOP commissioner, serve another term at the agency. But O’Rielly delivered a speech this summer that raised red flags about government intervention in online content moderation, prompting the president to pull O’Rielly’s nomination in early August.
In September, Trump tapped Simington, an aide at the Commerce Department who played a critical role in carrying out Trump’s executive order over the summer that sought to expand the U.S. government’s power to police online speech. The president took an unexpected interest in his confirmation, tweeting repeatedly that the Senate needed to act to confirm him for the FCC.
Appearing at a Senate confirmation hearing last month, Simington told lawmakers that he would take a deregulatory approach to the telecom industry as he focused on issues such as broadband connectivity and national security. He promised to be “thoughtful about potential chilling effects on development if [the FCC’s] regulatory efforts go over the line and become intrusive, disruptive and burdensome.”