Bipartisan Budget Act, Senate Confirmations

The House and Senate are in recess until the second week of September. Last Friday, the President signed the Bipartisan Budget Act into law, implementing a two-year budget deal that also suspends the debt limit until July 31, 2021. He also signed legislation waiving a prohibition that precluded Dan Elwell, who has been serving as the Acting Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) since January 2018, from staying on as Deputy Administrator once Steve Dickson is sworn in as Administrator because they are both former military officers. The Senate confirmed Dickson 52-40 on July 24 and he is set to be sworn in on August 12. The Senate also confirmed Michael Kratsios last Thursday to serve as the Trump Administration’s first US Chief Technology Officer and Associate Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Director of National Intelligence Nomination, Retirement Announcements

Last Friday, the President announced that he no longer plans to nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) to succeed former Senator Dan Coats as Director of National Intelligence (DNI). He has not yet announced a replacement. In the meantime, two more members of the Texas delegation – Reps. Will Hurd (R-TX) and Kenny Marchant (R-TX) – announced that they will not seek reelection in 2020.

President Visits El Paso and Dayton

On Wednesday, the President visited El Paso and Dayton to meet with communities victimized by recent mass shootings. The visit followed a letter from House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Ranking Member Mike Rogers (R-AL) to the owner of 8chan calling on him to testify about the proliferation of extremist content on his site. The letter does not explicitly refer to the protections provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, but coincided with a letter from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressing concern with including a provision similar to Section 230 in the proposed US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA). Pallone and Walden “take no view” in the letter as to whether or not the provision should be included, but ask Ambassador Lighthizer to consult with the Committee on this issue specifically as USMCA negotiations continue. Elsewhere, Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX) signed on last Friday to cosponsor Rep. Paul Gosar’s (R-AZ) Section 230 reform bill, H.R. 4027. For more on the Stop the Censorship Act, click here.

Potential Executive Order

Reports this week also indicated that the White House is preparing an executive order directed at allegations of anti-conservative bias on social media platforms. The President said at last month’s White House summit on social media that the Administration would explore all avenues to combat the perceived bias. The executive order is understood to be in early draft stages and is not expected to be released imminently.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.