Cruz to inject internet fight into spending battle

Cruz to inject internet fight into spending battle
© Getty Images

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWith religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again Interstate compacts aren't the right way to fix occupational licensing laws Texas Dem: ‘I don’t know what to believe’ about what Trump wants for wall MORE (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.

ADVERTISEMENT
“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.

Cruz has kept a low profile since ending his presidential campaign last summer.

He appeared at the Republican National Convention but refused to endorse GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems flip Wisconsin state Senate seat Sessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants GOP rep: 'Sheet metal and garbage' everywhere in Haiti MORE for president and was jeered as he left the stage.

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 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 RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP leaders pitch children's health funding in plan to avert shutdown Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising Fix what we’ve got and make Medicare right this year MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Overnight Finance: Lawmakers see shutdown odds rising | Trump calls for looser rules for bank loans | Consumer bureau moves to revise payday lending rule | Trump warns China on trade deficit MORE (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 ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneWeek ahead: Tech giants to testify on extremist content Overnight Tech: GOP senator presses Apple over phone slowdowns | YouTube cancels projects with Logan Paul after suicide video | CEOs push for DACA fix | Bill would punish credit agencies for breaches GOP senator presses Apple on phone slowdowns MORE (R-S.D.), a member of McConnell’s leadership team, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP senators eager for Romney to join them Five hurdles to a big DACA and border deal Grand jury indicts Maryland executive in Uranium One deal: report MORE (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 PritzkerPenny Sue PritzkerTrump transportation chief to join Biden for jobs event DeVos should ‘persist’ despite liberal opposition Indiana teachers hold sit-in to demand Young recuse himself from DeVos vote MORE Thursday raising concerns over the plan to cede the Commerce Department’s oversight over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority 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 GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteFreedom Caucus chair: GOP leaders don't have votes to avoid shutdown Sessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants GOP leaders pitch children's health funding in plan to avert shutdown MORE (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 DuffySean Patrick DuffyThe Hill's 12:30 Report GOP rep: I have read ‘wide swaths’ of tax bill, not the whole thing The Republican tax bill will cut thousands of Puerto Rico jobs MORE, 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 BradyKevin Patrick BradyHouse passes tariff-relief bill GOP may increase IRS’s budget Overnight Finance: Congress barrels toward another shutdown crisis | Canada worries Trump will withdraw from NAFTA | Blue-state Republicans push tax law changes | Chamber CEO calls out Bannon, Warren MORE (Texas) and Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresCongress should stand for rural America by enhancing broadband connectivity GOP could punt funding fight to January Trump calls for welfare reform as he rallies GOP for tax vote MORE (Texas) and several members of the House Freedom Caucus: Reps. Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineWeek ahead: Arctic drilling measure nears finish line Overnight Regulation: Justice, AT&T trade accusations over CNN sale | House panel approves bill to boost drilling on federal lands | Senate advances Trump EPA air nominee Overnight Tech: Feds, AT&T trade accusations over CNN sale | Ex-Yahoo CEO grilled over breach | Senate panel approves sex trafficking bill MORE (Okla.), Dave Brat (Va.) and John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingCoast Guard suspends search for missing Ohio plane Freedom Caucus member to bring up bill on impeaching IRS chief GOP seeks to make it 52 MORE (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.”