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The Senate Commerce Committee voted 14-12 to advance Nathan Simington, a close Trump ally and Section 230 critic, to the Federal Communications Commission. The full Senate will still have to consider his nomination, but the committee's party-line vote on Wednesday suggests he could make it through the Republican upper chamber.
Simington's nomination could deadlock the FCC and block the Biden administration's agenda for a significant period of time. Following Republican chairman Ajit Pai's planned departure in January, Simington's seat would leave the commission with two Democrats and two Republicans until the president-elect pushes through his own nominee.
Democrats on the committee raised an array of concerns over Simington during the nomination hearing. "What's at stake here ... is in fact the independence of the FCC," said Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal, who said he plans to do everything in his power to put a hold on Simington's nomination. "I think Mr. Simington lacks the qualifications and independence that are required of an FCC commissioner." Simington has come under fire for playing a key role in writing the Commerce Department's petition to the FCC seeking modifications to Section 230, following President Trump's executive order.
Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.