Ranking Member Cantwell, Commerce Democrats Unanimously Oppose Controversial Lame Duck FCC Nominee

December 2, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C.?–?Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Ranking Member Cantwell spoke at today’s hearing about her opposition to the lame duck nomination of Mr. Nathan Simington to be a member of the Federal Communications Commission, as well as nominees for NOAA and the Department of Commerce:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The FCC’s role has become even more critical in the time of a COVID crisis, with the majority of Americans considering broadband connectivity essential to their lives, to say nothing about the aspect of delivery of our healthcare system. That is why it is so important that we keep this in focus as we look at commissioners.

It is also important to remind the committee of the process that has brought Mr. Simington before us today. The White House abruptly and unexpectedly pulled its re-nomination of Commissioner O'Rielly just days after the committee reported the nomination to the Senate.

That nomination was reportedly pulled as a retaliation when Mr. O’Rielly was speaking his mind about problems with the FCC trying to issue rules related to Section 230 at the President's behest. Mr. Simington has nominated--was nominated a few short weeks later, coming from NTIA which asked the FCC to issue these rules. It raises real questions about why the White House chose Mr. Simington, particularly given his lack of experience with the FCC, its statutory responsibilities, and many of the key issues at the agency. Moreover, real questions have been raised about Mr. Simington’s candor with the committee during his confirmation process. At the behest, we now know, based on his own emails, that he misrepresented his involvement in pushing the FCC to do the President's bidding on Section 230. He actively and aggressively sought national media personalities’ explicit help in putting direct pressure on the FCC to move forward on the administration’s Section 230 petition. So, this involvement to me sounds significant and I do not support his nomination.

We're also voting on Dr. Greg Autry for the position of Chief Financial Officer of NASA for approximately 50 days. NASA’s CFO develops and executes a budget of over 22 billion dollars, and again, I think the decisions on priorities for the money should be left to the next administration.

Finally, we have the nomination of Mr. Huff, [for] Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Legislative Affairs. He has been nominated to the position that has been vacant since July of last year, just before Hurricane Dorian and scientific integrity violations that had followed. This year has brought a record number of hurricanes, as well as devastating wildfires across the West, all the while, while controversial personnel decisions at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been made out of the public eye.

When my staff has asked about the most basic questions, it takes a Herculean effort to get an updated [NOAA] staff list. Media reports the Department has issued memos requiring departmental approval of all outgoing communications from NOAA. My staff and colleagues on our sister committees with oversight of NOAA have also been unable to see these important memos. So we need transparency from this Department and we need it now. So again, I do not support this nomination, Mr. [Chairman], and I hope that we will move forward on other nominees in the very near future. Thank you.”

Video of Ranking Member Cantwell’s opening statement can be found HERE and audio is HERE.