I think [the Dotcom Act] is a good faith effort to begin to provide congressional oversight over this exceptionally important topic, which is namely the administration’s announced intention to hand over control of the Internet to a multinational, multiparty group.
Everyone on this committee I think believes that the Internet is important for commerce, that it’s important for entrepreneurial freedom, that it’s important for the First Amendment.
Unfortunately this [bill] provides congressional oversight but it sets the presumption that if Congress doesn’t act in 30 days, the administration can go forward with its stated intention. My amendment simply reverses that presumption and says that the contract has to maintain in place unless Congress acts.
You know, there has been a persistent pattern for a number of years of Congress acquiescing and handing over our authority. The Constitution gives legal authority to this body and over and over again, members of this body have been willing to give away our constitutional authority.
If it is a good idea consistent with U.S. national security interests, to hand over, to give away the Internet then Congress should debate that and approve it.
If this bill is passed in its current form here’s a look into what will happen. The report will be submitted to Congress, 30 days will pass, Congress will do nothing, and then the Internet will be handed over.
We should act affirmatively to protect the Internet. And one of the many reasons for doing so is that under the explicit text of the Constitution, Article IV, Section 3, the Constitution provides, “Congress shall have the power to dispose of … property belonging to the United States.” It is only Congress, it is not the Assistant Secretary of Commerce, that has that authority, and under the text of the ICANN contract, it states, “All deliverables under this contract become the property of the U.S. Government,” and the Constitution gives only this body, Congress, the authority, to dispose of property of the U.S. government.
Mr. Chairman, one of the problems with the current draft is it will most assuredly be argued in court by the Justice Department when Commerce goes ahead with the giveaway of the Internet that this act has implicitly overridden the contract and authorized the giveaway of federal property. Namely that the opening sentence of this bill provides, “Until the date that is 30 legislative days after the submission to Congress of the report described in subsection (b), the Assistant Secretary may not permit the NTIA’s role in the performance of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions to terminate, lapse, be cancelled, or otherwise cease to be in effect.” The Department of Justice lawyers will certainly argue that that implicitly authorizes doing exactly that, once 30 days have passed.
I think the members on this committee will bear responsibility for the consequences of that.
You know, I would note there’s a degree of unanimity on this that is rare. It is not often when the Washington Post and the National Review are both in agreement.
Here’s what the Washington Post said, the editorial board: “Last month, China hosted the first World Internet Conference and gave everyone reason to worry. At the last minute, Chinese officials tried to ram through a declaration calling for governments to exert greater control over the fastest and freest communications tool the world has ever seen, using the chilling concept of ‘Internet sovereignty’ to justify it. Russia, meanwhile, has crushed its most prominent Internet entrepreneur — Pavel Durov, the founder of a major Facebook-like application — after he refused to cooperate with the Kremlin.” That’s the Washington Post, not an institution that I regularly quote or agree with.
On the flip side, the National Review’s editorial board put it very simply: “Why fix what is in no way broken? … What does America get from the deal?”
It is a mistake for America to hand power to Russia, to China, to foreign nations that don’t respect our constitutional rights, that don’t respect freedom.
The United States in operating this has maintained freedom on the Internet and we need to protect it, I would urge colleagues on both sides of the aisle simply to defend Congress’ authority — to vote — before we see control of the Internet given away from the United States of America.
ALG Editor’s Note: Adapted from a statement made to the Senate Commerce Committee moments before a failed vote on an amendment to the Dotcom Act on June 25. Ted Cruz is a Republican Senator representing the state of Texas.