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Fitzgerald, Perry Criticize Khan

House Votes Down Bid to Reduce FTC Funding to FY19 Level, OKs Curbs on Agency Power

The House voted 172-257 Wednesday against an amendment to the FY 2024 Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee funding bill (HR-4664) from Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry, R-Pa., that would have reduced the FTC’s annual funding to the almost $310 million it received for FY 2019 (see 1902150055). The chamber, meanwhile, approved on voice votes a trio of amendments aimed at curbing some FTC practices. The House was set to debate some other FCC and FTC-related amendments ahead of a final vote on HR-4664 that could happen as soon as Thursday. House GOP lawmakers are attempting to claw back additional federal funding for CPB via additional amendments to the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee FY24 funding bill (HR-5894).

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Perry defended his amendment to reduce FTC funding to FY19 levels as necessary to curb “the Biden administration’s weaponization” of the commission. The FTC’s “policies under Chair Lina Khan threaten” to move the agency “towards arbitrary standards to break up companies or stop them from merging simply because they are too big,” he said. House Appropriations Financial Services ranking member Steny Hoyer, D-Md., countered that continued attempts to “nip away” at the FTC’s ability to protect consumers and other actors in the economy are “going to erode this economy and diminish” everyone’s quality of life “and their security.”

Perry acknowledged HR-4664 already proposes reducing the FTC’s annual funding to $376.5 million, a 12% decrease from what the agency got for FY 2023 (see 2212210077), but “it shouldn’t be too tall a request to lower that number even further to pre-pandemic levels,” when the federal government was “still too big.” The Senate Appropriations Committee is proposing to set FTC spending for FY24 at $450 million, which itself is more than 23% less than the $590 million President Joe Biden requested (see 2307130069). Hoyer said Perry’s proposal is not just “a nick at” the FTC’s budget but “a cut” into the agency’s “muscle” and “ability to do the job that consumers” expect it to," Hoyer said.

Rep. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Wis., successfully added three of his FTC amendments. One proposal would ban the FTC from using its appropriation to issue “any rule describing unfair methods of competition.” A second amendment would bar the FTC from enforcing its 2022 policy statement reasserting the agency’s FTC Act Section 5 authority to rigorously enforce the federal ban on unfair methods of competition (see 2211100046) in a manner inconsistent with the Clayton and Sherman acts. The third would prevent the FTC from using any funds on its suspension of early termination to premerger notification filings.

Fitzgerald said his bar on “unfair competition” rulemakings at the FTC is needed because Khan has turned the commission into “a weapon” and has discarded “decades of precedent.” Unfair competition rulemakings “would be a claim of quasi-legislative power that would distract the agency from its core mission of case-by-case expert application of the FTC Act through administrative actions,” he said: It could also “open the door to harmful rules that would empower this administration to coerce companies to bow to [its] radical agenda.” Hoyer countered that the amendment was “way too broad and harmful” and urged lawmakers against adopting it “without much greater thought of the ramifications” for consumers.

The House was set to consider Wednesday night an amendment from Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., to defund the FCC's Communications Equity and Diversity Council. The group, which was rechartered in June, previously eyed best practices for digital upskilling, improving diverse access to capital and providing broadband to underserved populations (see 2302230060). The chamber was set to consider as part of an en bloc package an amendment from Rep. Marc Molinaro, R-N.Y., that would increase and immediately decrease the FTC’s annual funding by $50 million to encourage the agency to collaborate with the FCC, DOJ and Treasury Department to pursue and deter scams targeted at senior citizens.

The House Rules Committee plans to meet Monday to consider amendments to HR-5894, including one from Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., that would rescind $525 million in funding for CPB that Congress allocated in advance for FY24 as part of the FY 2022 omnibus appropriations law (see 2203100073). House Appropriations already cleared HR-5894 without language providing for advance FY 2026 money for CPB (see 2307140069). Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, has already proposed barring funding from the bill to, “directly or indirectly, be made available to or used to support” either NPR or PBS (see 2311030069). Biden proposed increasing CPB’s annual appropriation to $575 million for FY26, while Senate Appropriations wants to maintain its advance funding at $535 million (see 2307270063).