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NTIA, CPB Appropriations Up Next

House Backs CEDC Defunding Proposal, but FY24 FCC Funding Bill in Limbo

The House approved an amendment Wednesday night to the FY 2024 Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee funding bill (HR-4664) that would defund the FCC's Communications Equity and Diversity Council, but the proposal’s prospects remained in doubt Thursday after chamber leaders abruptly pulled the measure off the floor amid misgivings from some Republicans. House GOP leaders are eyeing a pivot to a continuing resolution to fund the government past Nov. 17 but were still deliberating on its contours Thursday afternoon.

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Objections some moderate and conservative Republicans raised about HR-4664 had nothing to do with language on FCC and FTC appropriations or accompanying riders. The underlying bill would allocate almost $382 million to the FCC, 7% less than the Senate Appropriations Committee proposes and a 2% decrease from what Congress provided for FY 2023 (see 2307130069). HR-4664 would give the FTC $376.5 million for the FTC, a 12% decrease from FY23 (see 2212210077). The House on Wednesday turned down a bid from Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry, R-Pa., to drop the FTC’s funding back to the almost $310 million it received for FY 2019 (see 2311080083).

The House approved the CEDC defunding proposal from Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., on a voice vote despite floor opposition from Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa. The group, which rechartered in June, previously eyed best practices for digital upskilling, improving diverse access to capital and providing broadband to underserved populations (see 2302230060). The FCC didn’t comment.

CEDC “is instrumental in promoting inclusivity within” the FCC, Cartwright said during debate on the amendment. “The council’s existence improves decision-making at the FCC by incorporating diverse viewpoints” because “diverse teams are more likely to generate innovative ideas, leading to better policies and regulations that benefit a wider range of people in the ever-evolving” communications and tech sectors. CEDC also plays “a crucial role in ensuring the FCC complies” with federal law and “ethical guidelines related to diversity and equity in employment,” he said.

CEDC is an example of the “wasteful and purposeless” federal entities “that do nothing but fuel the flames of divisiveness in our government,” Steube said on the floor. The “woke” council’s mission is to “advance equity and the provision of and access to digital communications” and “advance progressive priorities by elevating certain small businesses based merely on the race or gender of the business owner.” It’s “clear they’re working for politically preferred groups rather than the American people as a whole,” Steube said.

The FCC’s draft rules on digital discrimination that will be considered during the commissioners' Nov. 15 open meeting (see 2310250070) are an example of “the results” of CEDC’s influence, Steube said. FCC Democrats are seeking “to go beyond the plain letter” of language in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that required the commission to undertake the digital discrimination rulemaking and potentially use the proceeding to find ISPs “guilty of discrimination simply because some areas of the country have … slightly better access to the internet than others regardless of whether there’s evidence of actual, legitimate discrimination.”

The House Rules Committee was still set as of Thursday afternoon to meet Monday on whether to allow floor votes on proposed amendments to the Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee FY24 funding bill (HR-5894), including proposals to further restrict federal funding for public broadcasting beyond the measure’s existing deletion of advance money for FY 2026 (see 2307210065). Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., wants to rescind $525 million in funding for CPB that Congress allocated in advance for FY24 as part of the FY 2022 omnibus appropriations law. Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, proposes barring funding from the bill to, “directly or indirectly, be made available to or used to support” either NPR or PBS (see 2311030069). President Joe 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).

House Rules is also set to meet Tuesday on proposed amendments to the FY24 Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee funding bill (HR-5893), which includes cuts to NTIA, other Commerce Department Agencies and DOJ Antitrust Division (see 2307140069). Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, wants to allocate NTIA an additional $1 million to work with the FCC and DOD to write a report to lawmakers on the Chinese government’s international positions on reallocating spectrum from military to commercial wireless use, including its stances at the upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference in Dubai. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., proposes increasing funding for NTIA’s Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund by $5 million using funding taken from DOJ.