House approves bill reclaiming unused broadband funds

The bill, H.R. 1343, could help claw back as much as $38 million of these broadband grants that were either unused or found to have other problems, such as those cases involving waste, fraud and abuse. Republicans argued Wednesday that the total $7.2 billion in grants, issued through the Commerce and Agriculture departments, needs more oversight and specific language that allows funds to be reclaimed in those cases.

“Any time that much taxpayer money is given away so quickly and subject to political pressure, vigilant oversight is required,” Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) said on the floor during brief debate.

Democrats did not oppose the bill, though Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) said she believed the bill to be redundant because last year’s Dodd-Frank financial reform bill included language aimed at having unused grants returned. She also praised the grants in general by saying they have helped to increase broadband access across the country.

Republicans said the bill is necessary because Dodd-Frank only gave federal agencies the option of sending back unused money.

Report language from House Republicans said a few Commerce Department grants, worth $38.7 million, were returned or not used.

—This story was updated at 3:16 p.m. to clarify that just a few of the unused Commerce grants totaled $38.7 million.

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