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By: Todd Ruger of Roll Call

The House Judiciary Committee approved a resolution Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress over access to the full special counsel report, escalating a broadening clash between the legislative and executive branches over congressional oversight.

The resolution, approved on a 24-16 roll call vote along party lines, came after days of negotiations with the Justice Department in public and private that came down to how many lawmakers and staffers could see and discuss the report from Robert S. Mueller III, and how much material they would see because of court orders protecting it.

At the outset of a meeting that spanned more than six hours, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., suggested the resolution addressed broader concerns over the separation of powers.

But House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., suggested the resolution addressed broader concerns over the separation of powers. 

“Our fight is not just about the Mueller report, although we must have access to the Mueller report," Nadler said. "Our fight is about defending the rights of Congress as an independent branch to hold the president, any president, accountable."

The Justice Department late Tuesday said Barr would be compelled to request that President Donald Trump invoke executive privilege over the material covered by the congressional subpoena.

Ahead of the vote, Justice Department officials informed Nadler in a letter that they asserted executive privilege over all the Mueller report materials subpoenaed by the panel.

“This is not a step we take lightly,” Nadler said.

Nadler said the Justice Department’s legal arguments “are without credibility, merit, or legal or factual basis” and moved forward with the vote.

“The Department’s decision reflects President Trump’s blanket defiance of Congress’s constitutionally mandated duties,” Nadler said. “In the coming days, Congress will have no choice but to confront the behavior of this lawless administration.”

During a heated partisan discussion, Democrats accused Barr and the Trump administration of having contempt for congressional oversight, while Republicans called the move premature and unneeded.

Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, called the committee’s recent actions “disgraceful,” while Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, said he was “really here in mourning, for a once great Judiciary Committee.”

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., said that the committee moved from request to contempt vote in only 43 days, compared to the 250 days the House Oversight Committee waited in 2012 before voting to hold then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt. 

“Why this rush?” Collins said.

Collins called the move “without any valid legislative or administrative reason” and “a cynical, mean-spirited, counterproductive and irresponsible step.” 

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said the attorney general would have to commit a crime of violating grand jury secrecy to fully comply with a subpoena for the unredacted version of the Mueller report.

“What we’re doing here is forcing the attorney general to break the law, to place in jeopardy innocent people who were not involved in any of the things Mr. Mueller ended up investigating, and shaming ourselves in the process,” Sensenbrenner said.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, paused before speaking at the hearing because she said this is a “moment in history.” 

She said Barr and Trump broadened executive privilege and it was a “purposeful collapse” of negotiations.

“The president now seeks to take a wrecking ball to the constitution of the United States over America,” Lee said.

The resolution now goes to the full House, where it has the support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. But even if the House approves it, federal prosecutors in the Trump administration are unlikely to pursue a criminal contempt case against the nation’s top law enforcement official. “Reality: All players know this is mostly theater,” Ross Garber, who teaches political investigations and impeachments at Tulane Law School, tweeted Tuesday night. 

“There will be a contempt vote. There will not be a criminal prosecution. Committee will file civil case," Garber added. "There will be more negotiations and probably some additional info provided by DOJ. Case will last until after 2020 elections.”

After the 2012 Holder contempt vote, no criminal charges were filed against Holder, and the lawsuit over the records lawmakers saw stretched for years.

Marty Lederman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, tweeted that if the negotiations come down to how many members can view redacted material from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report, and how many staff members each can bring, that “this would be an *absurd* hill on which *either* side should plant its flag in litigation. Surely a compromise is possible.”

Pelosi said Wednesday, when asked at a Washington Post live event whether House Democrats would consider impeaching Barr, that: “Nothing is ever off the table.”

And the Barr contempt vote comes amid increasing tension between the Democratic-led House and the Trump administration over subpoenas from various committees.

White House Press Secretary Sarah H. Sanders blasted Nadler's efforts as a "blatant abuse of power" intended to distract from the president's agenda. 

Nadler said the Judiciary Committee will hold former White House counsel Donald McGahn in contempt of Congress if he does not comply with a subpoena to appear before the committee on May 21.

McGahn, who missed a first deadline in a subpoena to turn over the documents because the White House asserts it has legal custody of them, faces a second deadline two weeks from now, when the Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed him to testify about the alleged obstruction of justice.

By: Tom Tillison of BPR

With House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., pushing ahead with his vindictive threat to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for not giving up an unredacted copy of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, a critical point is being missed in all the hoopla.

That being that Nadler’s subpoena is requesting that Barr do something that is illegal.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., and other members of the Judiciary panel pointed out that the Mueller report includes grand jury testimony and that it would be “a crime” to disclose this testimony.

“The committee, by making this insistence and issuing this subpoena, is telling the attorney general of the United States to commit a crime,” Sensenbrenner said during Wednesday’s hearing. “Because it is a crime for anyone to disclose grand jury information of anyone else.”

Sensenbrenner admonished the Democrats on the committee members for making an illegal request.

“It is absolutely shocking that the majority of this committee is going to ask the chief law enforcement officer of the United States to commit a crime,” he stated. Shocking.”

The Republican lawmaker noted that “it’s really impossible for the people who work on this Capitol Hill to keep a secret,” saying that is an unredacted copy of the Mueller report is turned over, “it will be on the front page of every newspaper in the country within 48 hours.”

Rep. Louie Gomar, R-Texas, was on the same page, saying Barr was being asked to do something that was illegal without a court order.

“You cannot be in contempt for failing to produce what would be illegal to produce without a court order,” Gomar declared. “You’re on the wrong side of history.”

“There is no joy here in seeing the abuses,” he continued. “I hope and pray literally for the day when we can join forces and quit trying to push this idea of an attempted coup and uncover the abuses that have truly gone on.”

Alleged abuses Barr is trying to get to the bottom of by looking into the circumstances that resulted in a special counsel to investigate nonexistent Russian collusion.

By: Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times

WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to recommend that the House hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over Robert S. Mueller III’s unredacted report, hours after President Trump asserted executive privilege to shield the full report and underlying evidence from Congress.

The committee’s 24-to-16 contempt vote, taken after hours of debate over the future of American democracy, was the first official House action to punish a government official in the standoff over the Mueller report. The Justice Department denounced the move as unnecessary and intended to stoke a fight.

After the vote, the Judiciary Committee chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, swatted away questions about possible impeachment, but added, “We are now in a constitutional crisis.”

The contempt vote raised the stakes in the battle over evidence and witnesses as Democrats investigate Mr. Trump over behavior detailed by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, in his report into Russian election interference and possible obstruction of justice. By the day’s end, it seemed all but inevitable that the competing claims would have to be settled in the nation’s courts rather than on Capitol Hill.

“Our fight is not just about the Mueller report — although we must have access to the Mueller report,” Mr. Nadler said during a debate. “Our fight is about defending the rights of Congress, as an independent branch, to hold the president, any president, accountable.”

The Justice Department, the White House and House Republicans lined up to contest that claim, shooting back that Democrats were the ones abusing their powers to manufacture a crisis.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, Kerri Kupec, deplored the contempt vote as “politically motivated and unnecessary,” and the two sides traded blame over who had cut off weeks of negotiations over a possible compromise.

“Regrettably, Chairman Nadler’s actions have prematurely terminated the accommodation process and forced the president to assert executive privilege to preserve the status quo,” Ms. Kupec said. “No one, including Chairman Nadler and his committee, will force the Department of Justice to break the law.”

Though Mr. Trump has repeatedly tried to withhold information from Congress, and pledged to object to all House subpoenas, the executive privilege assertion is his first use of the secrecy powers as president.

The Justice Department, which asked the president to step in, described the assertion as a “protective” measure that would give Mr. Trump time to fully review the materials before making a final determination about executive privilege. But the timing signaled that the White House was eager for a fight.

“The American people see through Chairman Nadler’s desperate ploy to distract from the president’s historically successful agenda and our booming economy,” said the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

It was not immediately clear when the full House would vote, and the intervening period could allow Mr. Barr time to negotiate. Mr. Nadler said he expected a House vote “rapidly.”

After a contempt vote, the House would most likely file a lawsuit seeking to enforce their subpoena, but the ensuing legal process could take years, effectively stalling Democrats’ quest.

Passage of such a resolution would be only the second time in American history that the nation’s top law enforcement official is found to be in contempt of Congress.

The Judiciary Committee was not the only House panel locked in conflict over the material. During the contempt hearing on Wednesday, the Intelligence Committee quietly sent the Justice Department its own subpoena for the full Mueller report and underlying evidence, as well as any counterintelligence and foreign intelligence material generated during the special counsel investigation. The panel likewise blamed the department for failing to accommodate its bipartisan oversight interest in the material and argued that as the body that oversees the intelligence community, it had special authorities to view the secretive material.

“The law is on our side,” said the committee’s chairman, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California. “The committee’s efforts to obtain necessary documents to do our constitutionally-mandated oversight work will not be obstructed.”

Mr. Barr voluntarily released last month a redacted version of the special counsel’s 448-page report, which concluded that despite ample efforts by the Kremlin, the Trump campaign did not conspire with Russia to undermine the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Mueller also laid out at least 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice, and said he could not make a traditional judgment because of various legal constraints.

But Democrats say Mr. Barr’s version is not good enough, and they have accused the attorney general of stonewalling a legitimate request for material they need to pick up an investigation into possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by Mr. Trump. The Democrats’ request includes secretive grand jury information and other evidence.

The committee’s 27-page contempt report lays out the panel’s need for the report and offers an accounting of attempts to get Mr. Barr to share the materials first voluntarily and then under subpoena.

The Justice Department had tried to stave off the committee vote, offering to lawmakers some concessions around a less redacted version of the Mueller report, which omitted only grand jury material. Democrats deemed the offer insufficient.

The Justice Department had other objections to the subpoena. Compliance would require the department to violate “the law, court rules and court orders” as well as grand jury secrecy rules, a Justice Department official, Stephen E. Boyd, wrote. Republicans on the committee seized on that point to accuse Democrats of forcing Mr. Barr to choose between complying with their subpoena or the law.

But Democrats said they did not expect Mr. Barr to break the law and unilaterally release grand jury secrets, but rather to join them in petitioning a judge to unseal material for the grand jury for committee use.

Mr. Nadler said after the vote that Democrats intended to go to the judge on their own authority.

Democrats view the president’s executive privilege claim as nonsense, since much of the report and evidence has either been released publicly or shared with lawyers.

Still, Mr. Trump’s invocation of privilege could tie up the material in court and significantly complicate Democrats’ efforts to call other witnesses. Mr. Nadler said Wednesday it could delay a potential hearing with Mr. Mueller in the Judiciary Committee. And it could also limit testimony by Donald F. McGahn II, a former White House counsel and key witness in the special counsel’s investigation, scheduled under subpoena for May 21.

Democrats’ frustration in the hearing room was clear. “I can only conclude that the president now seeks to take a wrecking ball to the Constitution of the United States of America,” Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas said.

Republicans rose one after another to defend the attorney general and urge the Democrats to turn their investigative focus to the origins of what they see as a special counsel investigation cooked up to smear the president.

Representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who was one of the “managers” of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, criticized Democrats for lending support to a “character assassination squad running around this town” sullying innocent people.

There is little precedent for holding an attorney general in contempt. House Republicans did it for the first time in 2012, for Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., in connection with requests for information about the botched “Fast and Furious” gun trafficking investigation. Republicans cited that case frequently on Wednesday in an effort to paint Democrats as unreasonable. They had waited hundreds of days before escalating their fight over documents to a contempt citation, they said. Democrats waited just a few weeks in the instance of Mr. Barr.

“Why this rush?” asked Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the committee. “Without any valid legislative or administrative reason, we can only assume Democrats, led by the chairman, have resolved to sully Bill Barr’s good name and reputation.”

The example is a potentially cautionary one for both sides. Despite President Barack Obama’s assertion of executive privilege over the material in questions, House lawmakers ultimately prevailed in court, forcing the administration to hand over the evidence. But the process took years to play out and could have taken longer if the Obama administration had appealed a court’s decision.

In this case, a contempt citation does not guarantee an outcome Democrats want. While defying a congressional subpoena is technically a misdemeanor crime, it is up to the Justice Department to decide whether to prosecute. And though Democrats have mused in recent weeks about the authority of the House to apply punishments, including fines and detention, those outcomes have little modern precedent and are unlikely to actually be pursued.

Instead, a contempt citation would effectively push the dispute into the courts, where a judge could decide whether to force the administration to hand over the material. But that process would be lengthy, especially with Democrats likely to turn to the courts in a range of other disputes over Mr. Trump’s tax returns and over other potential witnesses to the obstruction investigation.

By: Jeff Mordock of the Washington Times

A Republican on the House Judiciary Committee said Wednesday the panel is asking Attorney General William P. Barr to commit a crime by turning over special counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted report and the supporting evidence.

“The committee, by making this insistence and issuing this subpoena, is telling the attorney general of the United States to commit a crime because it is a crime for anyone to disclose grand jury information at anyone else,” said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin Republican.

Mr. Sensenbrenner scolded Democratic committee members for pursuing a contempt vote against Mr. Barr for balking at their request for the full Mueller report.

“It is absolutely shocking that the majority of this committee is going to ask the chief law enforcement officer of the United States to commit a crime,” he continued. “Shocking.”

Mr. Sensenbrenner also cautioned that turning over the full report to Congress will result in it being leaked to the press and winding up on the front page of every newspaper in the country.

By: Alex Rogers and Ashley Killough of CNN

(CNN)The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to allow staff to question Attorney General William Barr during his hearing on the special counsel's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, raising the possibility that he won't show up.

Barr warned Democrats days ago that he won't appear before the committee, scheduled for Thursday morning, if they stick to the format.
"I don't know what he's afraid of," said House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat.
The vote was 21 to 14.
Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the panel, called the move unprecedented, saying Democrats wanted the appearance of impeachment without formally starting the process. He also said if staff wants to ask questions, he or she should run for Congress. And Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican of Wisconsin, said such a motion had not happened in his 40 years in Congress.
Nadler argued that staff asked witnesses questions during impeachment inquiries of Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, as well as Cabinet officials in previous decades.
Nadler said that Barr's hearing Thursday was especially important due to the recent revelation that special counsel Robert Mueller sent the attorney general a letter in March expressing his concerns with Barr's decision to release a memo summarizing the report. In that memo, Barr unveiled the overall points of the nearly two-year investigation and found that President Donald Trump did not obstruct justice, even though Mueller did not conclude whether Trump committed that offense. The Department of Justice then released a redacted Mueller report to the public.
Before the hearing, Nadler also said the committee would "take steps to enforce" a subpoena to the Justice Department for the unredacted Mueller report and its underlying evidence should Barr not comply.
    When asked if he thought Barr should step down, as other Democrats have called for, Nadler said that "there are great difficulties for the attorney general at this point."
    "Besides the fact that he clearly misled the American people, he seems to have testified non-truthfully to the Senate and the House, which raises major questions," Nadler said.

    By: HME NEWS

    WASHINGTON – A bill to create a separate benefit for complex rehab within the Medicare program has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

    H.R. 2408 was introduced by Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., on May 1.

    This follows the introduction on Monday of S. 1223, a bill that would exempt complex rehab manual and power wheelchairs and any wheelchair accessory, cushion or back when furnished in connection with a wheelchair from Medicare competitive bidding pricing.

    Earlier in April, Reps. John Larson, D-Conn., and Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., introduced H.R. 2293, a bill to suspend bid pricing for accessories for complex rehab manual wheelchairs for 18 months and to permanently exempt complex rehab manual wheelchairs from the program. 

    Complex rehab stakeholders are in Washington, D.C., today and tomorrow to meet with members of Congress and ask for support of all three bills.

    By: Susan Ferrechio & Naomi Lim of the Washington Examiner

    The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to push forward with the Democrats' plan to grill Attorney General William Barr for an additional hour via staff lawyers, setting up a political and legal fight with the country's top law enforcement officer.

    Barr had been scheduled to appear in the House on Thursday about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The House voted 21-14 to permit an extra 60 minutes of questioning by staff as opposed to lawmakers as the attorney general answered queries across the Capitol in the Senate Judiciary Committee, run by Republicans.

    The Democrat-majority House panel voted along party lines regarding parameters for Barr's testimony a day after a news story revealed Mueller had complained last month to the attorney general that his memo about the report on Russian collusion “did not fully capture the context” of his findings.

    Democrats have been eager to question Barr about his four-page memo, which they allege was purposely misleading and written to protect President Trump. Republicans, in turn, have sided with the Justice Department, which withdrew Barr’s agreement to testify when officials learned he would have to answer questions from staff, which is not the typical format.

    "I don't believe it's proper that this committee even talk about doing something so unprecedented," Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said.

    House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., however, argued that Congress does not need to justify to any part of the executive branch "the manner in which it chooses to conduct its own proceedings."

    "Any attempt by the executive to dictate this is an obstruction of Congress. No witness can simply dictate to this committee the manner in which he or she is questioned when it is fully in accordance with House rules," Nadler said.

    Nadler's counterpart, ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., said Democrats simply wanted to conduct an impeachment-like probe.

    "The precedent for staff questioning is impeachment, but the problem is they can't bring themselves to bring impeachment," Collins said. "[They] want the appearance of impeachment to satisfy the base, to talk to others, to impugn integrity, to do whatever to smear the president ahead of the 2020 election."

    But Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, shot back: "Democrats have no fear of the word impeachment and this is not an impeachment-like proceeding. What we are doing is investigating for the truth and investigating to edify the American people."

    A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to the Washington Examiner's inquiries about whether the attorney general will appear before the House on Thursday. The department also objects to the House Judiciary Committee’s intention to hold a closed-door session with Barr on the redacted portions of the report, which have not been disclosed.

    Washington, D.C.—During today’s markup, the House Judiciary Committee passed two bills sponsored by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner [WI-05] aimed at lowering drug costs. The CREATES Act and Stop STALLING Act both passed out of the committee unanimously.

    Rep. Sensenbrenner: “I’m proud to be a leader in this bipartisan push to lower drug prices and bring relief to the American people. By holding accountable those who game the system, we can find market-based solutions that make prescription medicines more affordable. I thank Chairman Cicilline and Congressman Jeffries for joining me in this effort.”

    Background on the legislation courtesy of the House Judiciary Committee:

    H.R. 965, the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act
    (Sponsored by Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner and David Cicilline [RI-01])

    In order for a generic or biosimilar prescription to have FDA approval, the generic manufacturer must be able to compare its product to the brand-name product. Simply put, if the product is as safe and effective as the label, then the FDA can approve the generic.

    Some generic manufacturers, however, have difficulty obtaining samples of medication from the brand-name company. This is because brand-name companies have an incentive to make it difficult for generic producers to obtain their brand-name products.

    The CREATES Act gives generic manufacturers the ability to bring actions in federal court against brand-name companies that refuse to provide samples of their products for purchase and use in the generic approval process. In so doing, the CREATES Act helps to increase the likelihood of a generic product coming to the market so consumers have more affordable options.

    The CREATES Act also gives the FDA more discretion for approving alternative safety protocols that meet the statutory standards already in place. This helps the FDA more efficiently process generic applications. In the end, this helps consumers, who will have greater choice when selecting their medications.

    According to a Congressional Budget Office estimate, the CREATES Act will save the federal government $3.9 billion on prescription spending.

    More than 90 organizations representing consumers, physicians, pharmacists, hospitals, insurers, antitrust exports, and other support the CREATES Act. Supporters include AARP, Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, Consumer Reports, Public Citizen, American Hospital Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, Patients for Affordable Drugs, and the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs.

    H.R. 2374, the Stop Significant and Time-wasting Abuse Limiting Legitimate Innovation of New Generics (Stop STALLING) Act
    (Sponsored by Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner and Hakeem Jeffries [NY-08])

    Individuals or companies can submit citizen petitions to voice concerns about a drug that could receive FDA approval. Because the FDA must respond to every petition it receives, bogus petitions often delay a generic drug from coming to market.

    When used appropriately, citizen petitions allow all Americans to raise legitimate health and safety concerns, but prescription drug companies game the system by submitting numerous or baseless bogus citizen petitions to protect their market share unfairly. The Stop STALLING Act clarifies that such anticompetitive petitions are illegal under the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act.

    The Stop STALLING Act also strengthens the FTC’s ability to challenge bogus petitions in court. This allows citizen petitions to continue serving their intended purpose while simultaneously deterring anticompetitive delays in the form of citizen petitions. 
    Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI-05) and Brian Higgins (D-NY-26) introduced H.R. 2408, the Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act. The bill creates a separate benefit category under Medicare to cover complex wheelchair and other adaptive equipment for people with severe medical needs.

    Rep. Sensenbrenner“Individuals with significant medical conditions like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries face unique physical and functional challenges. Many of these individuals rely on complex rehabilitation technology products to meet their medical needs and function on a daily basis. I’m proud to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation that would allow for targeted coverage and payment policies that address the unique situations of people with severe medical needs.” 

    Rep. Higgins“The reimbursement criteria for many of the devices used today was developed a generation ago, before some of this technology was available. This bipartisan legislation is an effort to remove bureaucratic barriers that create unnecessary challenges for families and provide easier access to services and complex medically necessary equipment for those with severe disabilities.”   

    Currently, Medicare includes complex rehabilitation equipment in the same category as standard durable medical equipment – i.e., traditional manual wheelchairs. However, individuals who use complex rehabilitation technology products tend to differ from the traditional Medicare population and have vastly different needs. Furthermore, these complex and often customizable products require a broader range of services and specialized personnel, as well as much more training and education for suppliers to ensure appropriate use.

    Under H.R. 2408, Medicare would cover complex rehabilitation technology under a separate benefit category. This separate category would allow for targeted coverage and payment policies that address the unique situations of this specialized subset of durable medical equipment and the people with disabilities it serves. 

    Additionally, to help prevent fraud and abuse, the legislation would establish clinical conditions for coverage that ensure these items are prescribed appropriately. Whenever prescribed, a licensed physical or occupational therapist with no financial relationship to the supplier would have to conduct an evaluation. This will ensure program safeguards by increasing quality standards for suppliers of these items.

    H.R. 2408 is supported by the American Association for Homecare, American Physical Therapy Association, Brain Injury Association of America, Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, Easter Seals, National Association for Home Care & Hospice, National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology, National Council on Independent Living, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, National Registry of Rehabilitation Technology Suppliers, Paralyzed Veterans of America, United Spinal Association.

    By: Jackson Truesdale of the Brown Daily Herald

    On April 3, U.S. Congressman David Cicilline ’83, D-R.I. proposed the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act for the second year in a row, which would allow online publishers and small newspapers to collectively negotiate with companies like Facebook and Google over the terms that regulate how these dominant online platforms distribute the publishers’ content.

    “Right now, these two large platforms basically dictate the terms,” Cicilline told The Herald. To grant ‘News Content Creators’ more power in negotiations with ‘Online Content Distributors,’  the bill presents “a market-based solution. It’s not breaking up the platforms.” Instead, the act exempts publishers from antitrust laws that would otherwise prevent them from banding together during negotiations.

    Cicilline introduced the bill last year in a GOP-majority House and found no Republican support, preventing the bill’s progress, The Hill reported. With the highest ranking Judiciary Republican Rep. Doug Collins, R-GA, now onboard, the bill stands a greater chance of moving forward.

    President and CEO of News Media Alliance and the American Press Institute David Chavern emphasized the significance of the act. “The current antitrust laws protect Google and Facebook from news publishers. … We’re asking for the government to leave us alone” by limiting the liability of news content creators under the antitrust laws. Currently, newspapers have little to no collective negotiating power with large online platforms, which can prevent publishers from profiting when their own content is distributed. “More money has to flow back to publishers,” Chavern said

    Four months before introducing this bill, Cicilline became chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. He told The Herald that the subcommittee would focus on big technology companies and healthcare sector issues, like hospital consolidations and prescription drug prices.

    “It is well past time that we update and modernize our antitrust standards,” Cicilline told Bloomberg Opinion in January.

    On March 19, Cicilline wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission urging the agency to investigate Facebook for using its position as a monopoly to unlawfully undermine competition. The FTC has not issued a public response. But on March 26, the Commission initiated an investigation into the practices and policies of internet service providers under a law that allows them to “enforce against unfair and deceptive practices,” according to an FTC press release.

    Outside of large technology companies and internet privacy, the subcommittee’s efforts have also targeted the healthcare industry. In February 2019, the subcommittee introduced the bipartisan CREATES Act “to promote competition in the market for drugs and biological products by facilitating the timely entry of lower-cost generic and biosimilar versions of those drugs and biological products,” according to the legislation. According to the subcommittee’s ranking member, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, R-WI, Cicilline “has been a key ally on efforts to combat the rising costs of prescription drugs,” Sensenbrenner wrote in an email to The Herald. The CREATES Act “would expand access to markets for generics, making prescription drugs more affordable and saving taxpayers billions of dollars,” Sensenbrenner wrote.

    “We need to promote policies that promote competition and choice. It should be bipartisan because Republicans have always been good on this issue,” Cicilline said.

    Cicilline believes that further change is on its way. “We just haven’t had good enforcement of competition policy at the federal regulatory level,” Cicilline said, adding, “We didn’t have a Congress that made it a priority. We’re going to make it one now.”

    Facebook did not respond to request for comment.