A divided Senate has begun the process of voting on Nathan Simington's nomination to the FCC, expected to draw plenty of floor pushback from unhappy Democrats before a final vote later in the day. The Senate recessed until 2 p.m.
Simington is expected to have the Republican votes for confirmation, said one former top FCC official, though Simington did not get enthusiastic endorsements from that side of the aisle at the vote in the Commerce Committee executive meeting that approved his nomination out of committee. Simington was President Trump's pick, while by custom Senate Republicans usually have a say in who gets such nominations. In fact, some Republicans had gone to bat for O'Rielly, a former Hill staffer with Republican fans in high Hill places, after Trump's abrupt reversal on his nomination.
The Senate voted 49 to 47 early Tuesday afternoon (Dec. 8) to invoke cloture and thus limit final debate on the Simington nomination. A confirmation vote is scheduled for sometime after 4 p.m., according to a tweet from the Senate Cloak Room, which tracks floor proceedings.
If Simington is installed, the FCC will be at a 2-2 political deadlock starting when FCC chairman Ajit Pai leaves in January and until new President Joe Biden can get a third Democrat confirmed, possibly by a Republican Senate in no rush to give the FCC a 3-2 majority it could use to restore net neutrality rules and impose other new regulations.
Not surprisingly, Democrats oppose what they see as a move to obstruct the incoming FCC.
If Simington is confirmed, he will likely not take over the O'Rielly chair until after the FCC's Thursday public meeting, said one former FCC commissioner, a meeting O'Rielly has been preparing for featuring issues on which he is well versed.
Simington, who is with the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, the White House's chief communications policy adviser, was nominated to a five-year term starting July 1, 2019, which is when Michael O'Rielly's term ended--commissioners can continue to serve until the end of the Congress following the one in which their term expired.
O'Rielly was re-nominated for another five-year term, but the President subsequently pulled that nomination and replaced it with Simington's, reportedly unhappy that O'Rielly had raised issues with the FCC's regulation of social media, something Trump had pushed in an NTIA petition to the FCC that Simington worked on.
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.