Amendments Passed to Eliminate Obama Czars and Defund FCC Net Neutrality Rules

The House passed two important conservative amendments on Thursday night: to eliminate funding for President Obama’s czars and to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from enforcing its net neutrality rules.

The House is in the third day of an open process to debate 583 amendments to the Continuing Resolution (CR) spending bill. HUMAN EVENTS has identified 10 of the amendments which are key for conservatives to watch. 

The base text of the CR would cut government spending by $60 billion for the remaining seven months of the current fiscal year.  Each additional limiting amendment, which cuts government funding for specific programs from passage until Oct. 1, would be in addition to the baseline cut.

The Obama czars ban amendment (No. 204), offered by Rep. Steve Scalise (R.-La.), passed 249 to 179.  The FCC net neutrality amendment (No. 404), which was co-sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden (R.-Ore.) and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R.-Fla.), passed the House by a vote of 244 to 181.

Walden, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, and Stearns, the chairman of the  Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, offered the amendment that would restrict the FCC from using CR funds to implement its controversial net neutrality rules.

In December, the FCC set controversial new regulations to empower itself to regulate private sector networks and companies.

On Wednesday, Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee Fred Upton (R.-Mich.) introduced a resolution to overturn the FCC rules under the Congressional Review Act.  At a hearing the same day with five former FCC commissioners, Upton said that he and Walden “believe these rules will hurt innovation and the economy.”

While the legality of the FCC rules is still being debated, the Walden/Stearns’ amendment blocks all government funding for the current fiscal year from being used to implement them.

“It’s not appropriate for the unelected FCC to regulate Internet services without any input from the United States Congress,” said Stearns during Thursday evening’s debate.  “So Congress must stop the FCC.  This amendment will do that and prevent any money from being spent to implement regulation of the Internet.”

The House Democrats defended the new regulations and the FCC during the debate.

“Vote no on this amendment that shuts down the Internet,” protested Rep. Ed Markey (D.-Mass.), who is a member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

“The FCC rules were a very light-touch regulation,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D.-Calif.), who is the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The liberal Waxman protested that “if we stop the FCC from regulating, then we leave the status quo.”

Rep. Tom Graves (R.-Ga.) who is on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, which oversees funding for the FCC, responded to the Democrats.

“Let’s make it simple:  Government control means uniformity, regulation, fees, inspection, and yes, compliance,” said Graves.  “The Internet free marketplace is defined by fierce competition.  And that competition has transformed the world with innovation, investment, and what we need most of all right now, jobs.”

Meanwhile, the Democrats were really irked when the amendment to cut wasteful spending by eliminating Obama’s czars came to the floor.

Some of the Democrats believe that the whole amendment is really directed at one of the czars, Matt Lloyd, associate general counsel and chief diversity officer for the FCC.

Lloyd has come under fire from Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck because of his views on blocking conservative media under the Fairness Doctrine.

“Why saw this guy’s head off?  Because some talk show host says so?  I think this is poorly devised and poorly thought out,” said an exasperated Rep. Anna Eshoo (D.-Calif.).

The amendment restricts any CR funds to be used for Obama’s nine czars’ salaries or offices.  The czars are in federal positions in his administration, but not confirmed by Congress.  Of the nine positions, seven are currently filled.

Two of Obama’s czars—White House director of Urban Affairs and assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change—have not been filled yet.

The seven existing czars are in the following positions: director of the White House Office of Health Reform, special envoy for Climate Change, special adviser for Green Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation’s Council on Environmental Quality, senior adviser to the Secretary of the Treasury assigned to the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry and senior counselor for manufacturing policy, special envoy to oversee the closure of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, special master for TARP executive compensation at the Department of the Treasury, and Lloyd.

Eshoo asserted that the czars are merely “individuals who are carrying out the duties in the Executive Branch.”

The Republicans responded repeatedly that the czar offices are a waste of money and are not transparent.

“In this last election, the American people spoke out [against] lack of oversight.  We need access to people with answers,” said Rep. Charles Boustany (R.-La.).  “And the American people have the right to get answers from the White House.  Let’s be open with the American people.  Those who make policy should come before our committees.”

Eshoo complained about the Republicans’ use of the term “czar and czarina” to refer to the political appointees.

“For those who don’t understand the Russian word for ‘no,’ it’s ‘nyet’,” retorted Boustany.  “I say ‘no’ to the czars.”