Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
January 30, 2015

Posts in "Congressional Affairs"

January 29, 2015

Internet Governance: A Hearing Planned and a Resolution Introduced

In case you missed it, Sen. John Thune laid out out his to-do list on tech policy issues on Wednesday at the American Enterprise Institute and among the issues he mentioned was Internet governance.

Referring to the National Information and Telecommunication Administration’s plan to transfer its role in certain functions of the Internet domain name system to the global multistakeholder community (which has been the subject of GOP scrutiny), the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee said he expected to hold a hearing with NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling and chief executive officer and president of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers, Fadi Chehadé, some time after ICANN’s February meeting in Singapore to talk about the status of the transition proposal. NTIA asked ICANN last year to convene stakeholders to develop a transition proposal.

From the South Dakota Republican’s remarks:

If this transition is going to happen it has to be done very carefully. We have to focus on ensuring that the Internet will remain open, stable and secure. Russia, China and the United Nations have been all trying for years to exert more control over the Internet. And we cannot let this process be hijacked by those regimes. I’ve been working with Senator Marco Rubio to hold the administration accountable to its promises and to urge ICANN to implement accountability reforms as part of the IANA transition process. If these goals cannot be met, the administration should simply renew the IANA contract indefinitely.

Earlier this week, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, and Roy Blunt, R-Mo, introduced a resolution that would designate the second week of February as “Internet Governance Awareness Week” to increase public awareness of NTIA’s intent to “transition the stewardship of the functions of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority to the global multistakeholder community.”

Additional purposes of the week mentioned in the resolution include bringing the attention of participants in the next global ICANN meeting “to the importance of designing a transition proposal for the stewardship of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions, in conjunction with accountability and governance reforms to best prepare ICANN for executing its existing responsibilities in addition to the responsibilities that it may receive under any transition of the stewardship of the functions of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.” The resolution lays out elements of such a proposal and overhaul it deems important.

January 28, 2015

State of Play on Net Neutrality Legislation: It’s Still a GOP Bill

A number of Democrats on the Hill see issues with a net neutrality bill proposed by GOP leaders of the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committees. On Wednesday, the chairman of the Senate panel gave a state of play on whether any Democrats are on board the proposal. The short answer: none yet.

“We’ve been trying to get buy in from… some Democrats,” John Thune, R-S.D., at an event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute.

“If we’re gonna come up with a legislative solution… we’re gonna have to have some Democrats on board,” he said. “We haven’t landed anybody with certainty yet, but we’ve got a lot of folks that are looking at it, we’re keeping the negotiations open.”

He later said: “I’m hopeful that we’ll be able at some point to pull some Dems into this discussion and perhaps even get some on board with a legislative solution, but I don’t have anything to report today in terms of success with that.”

Data Privacy Day: Op-Eds Call for ECPA Update

A couple op-eds timed for Data Privacy Day today reiterate calls for lawmakers to pass an update of the 1986 Electronic Communications Act.

In a piece in Real Clear Policy, Sens. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, say they’ll reintroduce their legislation to update the 1986 law, which the Senate Judiciary Committee has previously approved, in the “coming weeks”:

They write:

The proposal we will soon introduce requires the government to obtain a search warrant, based on probable cause, before searching through the content of Americans’ e-mail or other electronic communications stored with a service provider such as Google, Facebook, or Yahoo!. The government is already prohibited from tapping our phones or forcibly entering our homes to obtain private information without warrants. The same privacy protections should apply to our online communications.

“Congress should pass ECPA reform this year, and President Barack Obama should sign these important privacy reforms into law,” they write.

For some background: under the current 180-day rule, law enforcement can obtain content of emails 180-days or less with a subpoena, not a search warrant.

Gate Rottman, legislative counsel and policy adviser for the American Civil Liberties Union and Katie McAuliffe, federal affairs managers and executive director of Digital Liberty at Americans for Tax Reform, also call for lawmakers to pass legislation to update the 1986 law in an op-ed in Roll Call.

They write:

The purpose of ECPA was to protect our privacy. Technological innovations have now turned that protection on its head, making it a threat to our privacy instead. Its original intent must be restored. Government must live within the letter and spirit of the Fourth Amendment. Our privacy, our economic future, our way of life depend on it.

January 27, 2015

State-of-Play of Democratic Police Body Camera Proposals

In your latest Roll Call Policy Focus, CQ Roll Call’s Joanna Anderson takes a look at a pair of Democratic proposals to equip more police with body cameras.

She writes:

Two similar Democratic proposals to equip more police officers with body-worn cameras should come into better focus within days, as details emerge on a White House initiative as well as a prominent African-American lawmaker’s legislation in the House.

But GOP lawmakers with authority on the issue on both sides of Capitol Hill are so far tight-lipped

Read the rest of the story here.

January 26, 2015

The Week Ahead: State of the Net, Data Breach Hearing & FCC Open Meeting

The State of the Net Conference, a House hearing regarding data breach legislation and the Federal Communications Commission’s January open meeting are on tap for this week.


The Federal Communications Commission hosts a “Small Business & Emerging Technologies Conference and Tech Fair.”

A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee holds a hearing titled “What are the Elements of Sound Data Breach Legislation?”

A subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee holds a cybersecurity hearing.

The Internet Education Foundation hosts its annual State of the Net Conference.


The American Enterprise Institute’s Center for Internet, Communications and Technology Policy hosts an event on tech policy issues in 2015.

The Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy hosts a panel discussion on media mergers and independent programmers.

A subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee holds a hearing on supercomputing.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee holds a hearing titled “Protecting America from Cyber Attacks: The Importance of Information Sharing.”


The Center for Democracy and Technology holds an event titled “Always On: The Digital Patient.”

The Federal Communications Commission holds its January open meeting.

George Mason University School of Law’s Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property co-hosts a discussion on patents and startups.

January 23, 2015

Weekly Wrapup: SOTU, Net Neutrality and Patents

It was a short but busy week and your Weekly Wrapup includes posts on the State of the Union address, net neutrality hearings and patents.

  • President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union address and in advance of the speech, Technocrat had a roundup of a few stories that at least touched upon social media and either White House strategy or lawmakers.
  • Among the issues that weren’t mentioned in Tuesday’ night’s address was patents, and  a couple proponents of legislation targeting abusive patent litigation said they were disappointedMichelle K. Lee, deputy director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, later said it wasn’t a reflection of any change in priorities.
  • Lawmakers on the Hill held net neutrality hearings and Technocrat had a post on interesting quotes from a couple House Republicans showing their current approach to the issue.
  • Oh, and Valencia Martin-Wallace has been promoted to a newly-created job at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office — deputy commissioner for patent quality.

January 22, 2015

BlackBerry Calls for ‘Content/Application Neutrality’

When talking about of the scope of net neutrality rules, debate in Washington has focused on issues like wireless broadband and interconnection. On Wednesday, BlackBerry CEO John Chen wrote in a blog post that rules should also cover content and application providers.

“Therefore, any net neutrality legislation must take a holistic view of the entire playing field, addressing both carrier neutrality and content/application neutrality,” he writes in the post, which notes that it’s adapted from a letter sent to leaders of the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committees.

Full story

January 21, 2015

Shimkus: ‘We Need to Get This Monkey Off Our Back’

In part one of today’s double-dose of net neutrality hearings, issues discussed ranged from wireless to “specialized services.” A couple of the interesting comments from the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing and afterwards highlighted GOP thinking on net neutrality and draft bill that was released by Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Commerce Science Transportation Committees last week.

“I’m a paid prioritization guy,” said Illinois Republican John Shimkus, arguing money has to be made if billions of dollars are going to be invested every year-and-a-half and that his position has been to ensure expansion of Internet infrastructure.

“But that was then, this is now,” he said.  “We’re in a new world order where I think we have now looked at the debate and said… we need to get this monkey off our back.”

Some certainty and rules were needed, he said.

Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., answering a question from a reporter  about whether he was worried that some conservatives wouldn’t back any type of Internet regulation, said:

They’ll have to make their own decisions, but I think in the face of what the FCC’s going to do is far worse and not legally sustainable and will have a negative effect on the market that… they’ll see this as a better course of action with certainty. And we found support among a lot of those groups who like we didn’t think that the Internet’s broken and needed top-down government control. We can offer up something different and better here that enshrines the principals people care about without this forbearance of all these laws.

Walden, who released the draft bill last week with full panel chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., later said:  “If it’s gonna be done, it’s going to be done. Right? The FCC’s gonna do it. We’ve got to do it right.”

Obama’s Tech Talk in SOTU

President Barack Obama’s call for lawmakers to pass legislation to address “cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information” in his State of the Union address wasn’t a surprise given his announcements last week in advance of Tuesday night’s speech, but he also mentioned net neutrality, surveillance and space in his speech. Below are some of his science and tech-related mentions:

  • “I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.”
  • “21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet.”
  • “No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information.”
  • “So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I haven’t. As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.”
  • “I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs — converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay. Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars. In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space. Good luck, Captain — and make sure to Instagram it.”

January 20, 2015

SOTU & Social Media

In advance of Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, here are a few stories that at least touch upon social media and either White House strategy or lawmakers.

  • Yahoo News’ Olivier Knox writes about the White House’s strategy for targeting four different audiences it sees: people actually on the House floor and watching on television, people streaming the speech online, people both watching on television and keeping tabs on social media commentary, and people who won’t watch or reach the speech.

“So while declining TV numbers have forced the White House to chase audiences across the social media landscape, the result has been to give the speech a longer life online,” he writes.

  • The New York Times’ Michael D. Shear reports: “The Obama administration has revamped its digital communications strategy in an attempt to reach new audiences for the State of the Union speech – a classic old-media event – and sidestep the skeptical filter often applied by White House reporters.”
  • CQ Roll Call’s David Hawkings writes: “This year there are more defensible rationales than ever for members of Congress to miss the State of the Union address. But there doesn’t seem to be any groundswell of absenteeism in the works.”

Among the “defensible rationales” for skipping out that Hawkings mentions: social media allowing lawmakers to just live-tweet commentary from home. But he writes that “as many lawmakers as ever” are gearing up to endure being “marooned under the House chamber’s hot TV lights and the crush in Statuary Hall’s ‘spin room.’” Among his reasons for why that would be: “It’s a rare opportunity for even the most obscure backbencher to be glimpsed live on 13 television networks simultaneously — an ego bump even for those aware the audience is likely to slip below last year’s 33.3 million, the smallest number since Clinton’s final address in 2000.”

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