Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is meeting with Conservative lawmakers in both chambers to build support for a showdown with the White House over funding the Government and power over the Internet.
Cruz wants a stopgap measure to fund the Government to include a rider that would block the Administration from relinquishing the special oversight role the United States has had over the Internet since its inception. “To stop the giveaway of our Internet freedom, Congress should act by continuing and by strengthening the appropriations rider in the continuing resolution that we will be considering this month,” Cruz said in a floor speech Thursday, referring to the stopgap.
The Texan retains ambitions for a future White House run, however, and the Internet cause is popular with Conservatives who argue that giving up U.S. oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) would empower U.S. rivals such as Russia, China and Iran. The ICANN manages the domain name system, and the Obama Administration intends to relinquish power to an international group of stakeholders.
Cruz, echoing Conservatives, argues that maintaining U.S. control will ensure the web will continue to operate freely.
The prospect of Cruz leading rank-and-file House Republicans, including members of the House Freedom Caucus, into a last-minute fight with President Obama over a Government funding resolution would be a rerun for the Texas Senator, who was blamed by his colleagues for causing a 2013 Government shutdown over an ObamaCare fight. It’s also a headache for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who both want to avoid even the slightest chance of another Government shutdown.
McConnell wants to take up the Continuing Resolution as soon as possible and with a minimum of conflict so vulnerable Senate Republicans can get back to their home states to resume campaigning. “If we’re able to reach an agreement on the [continuing resolution], we’ll turn to that next week,” he told reporters Wednesday. The 2013 shutdown sent the GOP’s approval rating into a tailspin, and McConnell vowed never to let it happen again. Adding a partisan fight over Internet oversight would complicate McConnell’s goal of getting a deal quickly. But it will be difficult to ignore Cruz, a persistent thorn in McConnell’s side.
The Texas freshman has the ear of Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of McConnell’s Leadership team, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is facing his most competitive reelection race yet.
Thune and Grassley signed a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Thursday raising concerns over the plan to cede the Commerce Department’s oversight over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANN) to other countries. “The transition of the IANA functions to the global multi-stakeholder community is a serious groundbreaking and potentially unalterable action,” they warned, asking the officials to “reconsider the administration’s current plans.”
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) also signed the letter.
It’s not clear that a rider would stop the Administration. Cruz believes strongly drafted language would be effective, but Democrats say the issue falls squarely within Obama’s authority.
Cruz believes the Administration must obtain express permission from Congress before going forward, while the Administration sees it differently, adding another chapter to the long debate between Obama and GOP Congressional Leaders over Executive power.
“Congress has for several years now prohibited the administration from using any funds to ‘relinquish control of the internet’ and yet in typical lawless fashion, the Department of Commerce has been racing to relinquish control by Sept. 30,” Cruz said on the Senate floor.
He will hold a hearing as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Oversight and Agency Action Subcommittee to review the issue. Cruz has also been in contact with Rep. Sean Duffy, a third-term Republican from Wisconsin, who is leading the effort in the House.
On the other side of the Capitol, Duffy has pressed Ryan to include language in the Continuing Resolution that would block the Administration from ceding power on Oct. 1.
Duffy has a bill blocking the transfer cosponsored by 20 GOP colleagues, such as House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (Texas) and Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill Flores (Texas) and several members of the House Freedom Caucus: Reps. Jim Bridenstine (Okla.), Dave Brat (Va.) and John Fleming (La.).
If Congress fails to act by the end of the month, the transfer will take place, giving Cruz leverage in his effort to push fellow Republicans to take a stand on the funding stopgap, which must pass by Oct. 1.
So far GOP Leaders have been noncommittal in response to pressure from within their Caucus to add language to the short-term funding bill blocking the Administration from taking action.
The Omnibus Spending bill that passed last year included such a provision, but it expires at the end of September.
“A continuing resolution without corrective language would not extend the prohibition rider,” a GOP aide noted.
The White House Budget Office declined to say Friday whether adding language to stopping the transfer of Internet oversight would draw a veto threat from the President.
A senior Senate Democratic aide suggested Legislative language might not have any impact “since the transition is governed by a contract.”
Twenty-seven signatories, including tech giants Amazon, Google, and Facebook, signed a letter obtained by The Hill, addressed to Senate and House leaders in support of the planned Internet Assigned Numbers Authority transition from U.S. management to an international governing body.
In the letter to be sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev), the tech multinationals and other Advocacy groups said that the stewardship of U.S. internet domain management to a multi-stakeholder model will "best serve U.S. interests."
The letter also noted that there were provisions for accountability in place, something that critics of the transition have noted as an issue. "Crucial safeguards are in place to protect human rights, including the freedom of speech," the letter said.
"The Internet's addressing system helps keep the Internet global, scalable and inter-operable," the letter continued. "It is imperative that Congress does not take action to delay the October 1st transition date. The Internet is defined by its inclusivity and openness."
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker