Last week, Revolver reported on Senator Marsha Blackburn’s obstruction of crucial anti-Big Tech FCC nominee Nathan Simington. Blackburn constantly postures as a foe of Big Tech, so why, we asked, was she standing in the way of President Trump’s nomination? Just a few hours after Revolver’s piece went live, Blackburn flipped, announcing that she will happily back Simington’s confirmation in a coming vote.
Sen. @MarshaBlackburn "looks forward to voting for Nathan Simington," President Trump's nominee for the FCC, her chief of staff tells me, dispelling any concerns on where she stands
Simington still requires a committee and floor vote by year's end, which is fast approaching
— John Hendel (@JohnHendel) November 13, 2020
With Blackburn’s endorsement, sources tell Revolver that only one Republican still stands in the way of Simington’s likely confirmation: Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan.
Blackburn explained her hesitation by citing (thankfully unjustified) concerns about Simington’s experience and preparedness. Sullivan, in contrast, has avoided publicly commenting on Simington. One likely reason is that his concerns aren’t really related to Simington at all. Instead, Sullivan has been in a running feud with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for most of the the Trump Administration.
In 2018, Sullivan held up the confirmations of current FCC commissioners Brendan Carr and Geoffrey Starks to express his displeasure over the FCC’s handling of subsidies for rural telemedicine services. Two years later, Sullivan was still at it.
Revolver won’t bore readers with the details of what Sullivan wants. His goals are far more substantive than Blackburn’s, but that doesn’t make them a valid reason to block one of President Trump’s most important nominees. If Sullivan thinks that blocking Simington’s confirmation will get him what he wants, he is sorely mistaken.
If Simington’s nomination expires and Donald Trump’s legal challenges fail to reverse the outcome of the presidential election, then President Biden will get to make his own appointment in Simington’s place. If the Georgia Senate runoffs are won by Democrats, Biden won’t even have to placate a Republican-controlled Senate. In that worst-case scenario, a Democratic President will be sending nominees through a Democratic Senate. Those nominees won’t be worried about pleasing Dan Sullivan.
If there is one thing the Democratic Party has made clear time and time again in 2020, it’s that it has turned its back on the rural areas and working class voters that were once a core part of its coalition. The odds that Joe Biden’s FCC appointee will be deeply concerned with sending money to the rural areas of a red state are slim to non-existent.
Sullivan’s obstinance is even stranger, since he has no reason to believe Simington is hostile to his priorities. At his hearing, Simington repeatedly expressed support for telemedicine and rural broadband development. There is no evidence he is a dogmatic libertarian opposed to using taxpayer funds to uplift poorer areas. In many ways, he seems like the ideal appointee of the Trump Era; a conservative not afraid to use government to achieve results for regular people.
So, even if Sullivan is solely concerned with getting money for rural Alaska, he has ample reason to back Simington rather than defer to Joe Biden. But of course that shouldn’t be his only concern, because far greater matters are at stake in the FCC. Sullivan’s constituents will suffer just as much as other Americans if giant tech monopolies left unchecked. They are just as vulnerable to having their speech suppressed. If Big Tech uses its power to steal an election via information control, that election is stolen just as much in Alaska as it is in the lower 48. If, on the other hand, Simington uses his post to help keep Big Tech in check (the main reason Trump nominated him), then Alaskans will benefit just as much as everyone else.
No more games. Sen. Sullivan should join Sen. Blackburn in publicly voicing his support for Simington. If he’d rather focus on keeping Big Tech happy, there’s another party he can join to do that. Revolver News will be following this case with great interest.
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