21 things Congress could defund in Commerce, Science, and Justice

This week the House of Representatives is taking up the appropriations bill for Commerce, Science and Justice. This is an opportunity for Congress to exercise its constitutional power of the purse through policy riders that can help limit the size and scope of government.

To that end, Americans for Limited Government suggests the following areas House members might look to offer amendments on in the context of the overall appropriations bill.

1. Defunding the Internet giveaway. This is actually already in the bill. Last year, Congress successfully defunded any transition of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to any outside entity during Fiscal Year 2015. The current language of the bill would make this prohibition permanent.

2. Defunding municipal broadband grants. As part of the 2009 stimulus, Congress funded municipal broadband grants and required the administration to create a national broadband plan. This Congress could stop these programs dead in their tracks by defunding them.

3. Defunding additional broadband programs. In 2008, Congress passed the Broadband Data Improvement Act, creating additional broadband programs that expand the Federal Communications Commission’s reach into local communities. These can be gutted too.

4. Defunding the March 23, 2015 broadband memorandum. On March 23, 2015 President Obama issued a memorandum titled: “Expanding Broadband Deployment and Adoption by Addressing Regulatory Barriers and Encouraging Investment and Training” which declares, “Access to high-speed broadband is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity for American families, businesses, and consumers.” Yet, broadband access is a convenience, not a right, and Congress can let the administration know by defunding the implementation of this policy directive.

5. Eliminating agricultural subsidies worldwide. Agricultural subsidies are not just a domestic nuisance, they are done competitively around the world by governments, creating market distortions throughout the global economy. Congress could direct the U.S. Trade Representative to use funds to negotiate at the World Trade Organization the elimination of all agricultural subsidies by the U.S. government and by foreign governments.

6. Enforcing congressional contempt citations by withholding funds to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. Eric Holder and Lois Lerner have been found in contempt by House oversight committees, yet nothing has happened to them, thanks to inaction by the U.S. Attorney of the District of Columbia. Congress could cut that office’s salary to no more than $1.00 per pay period until all outstanding contempt citations issued by the U.S. Congress are fully prosecuted.

7. Zero funding the Legal Services Corporation. Long on conservatives’ list of useless functions performed by the federal government, Congress could end the subsidy to the Legal Services Corporation to carry out the purposes of the Legal Services Corporation Act of 1974 by zero-funding it once and for all.

8. Defunding Civil Rights Division’s community relations outreach to Ferguson, Mo. or anywhere else. A little known aspect of the troubles in Ferguson, Mo. has been the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service’s role in fomenting community unrest. Congress could defund it and make sure that never happens again.

9. Defunding any lawsuits against state voter ID laws. The Obama administration has been a fierce opponent of any state voter identification laws. Congress could defend those laws by defunding any litigation against those laws by the Voting Rights Division or any other part of the U.S. Justice Department.

10. Defunding any and all contact and coordination with the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Southern Poverty Law Center has been at the center of assisting the Justice Department in publishing trumped-up right-wing extremism memos targeting conservatives. Congress should end this relationship permanently by denying funds to communicate with or in any other way coordinate any activities with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

11. Defunding EEOC disparate impact analysis from being used, including in any lawsuit, regulation, or report. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission uses statistical analyses of the race, color, religion, sex, or national origin of the employees of an employer to conduct investigations of violations of civil rights law, to obtain settlements and issue other findings. Congress could deny funds for actions that use disparate impact analysis.

12. Defunding EEOC from filing lawsuits in any case until after the agency has engaged in conciliation for at least 2 years. Congress could defund the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from initiating litigation against any employer for an alleged violation of law until the Commission has engaged in good faith efforts to endeavor to eliminate alleged unlawful employment practices through conciliation for a period of two years.

13. Defunding civil asset forfeiture. Before he left office, former Attorney General Eric Holder told the nation the federal government would no longer engage in civil asset forfeiture. Congress could make it official by barring funds to assist a state or local law enforcement agency in seizing property pursuant to state law, or to take the seized asset and forfeit it under federal law.

14. Defunding AP, James Rosen subpoenas, indictments. Members of Congress were rightly outraged when it was revealed that the Justice Department was targeting the Associated Press, James Rosen, and other journalists with legal action to get at national security reporter sources. Congress could put a stop to it by prohibiting the use of funds to obtain a subpoena for telephone toll records or any other information obtained in the course of, or arising out of, the coverage or investigation of a news story. Congress could also block all bills of indictment, and informations against any reporter or publisher for the same purpose.

15. Defunding NSA warrantless surveillance by the FISA Court. Congress already blew this by adopting the USA Freedom Act, which authorizes the bulk collection of data by the National Security Agency. Still, there is time for Congress to block the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court from issuing any warrants including to collect tangible things pursuant to an order under section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1861) if such things do not pertain to a person who is the subject of an investigation described in such section.

16. Defunding FISA Court rubber stamps and ink pads. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court probably has no shortage of rubber stamps and ink pads. Congress should block all funds for them, too.

17. Defunding no-take zones or marine sanctuaries designations. Congress could block funds to create any more no-take zones or marine sanctuaries in U.S. waters under the National Wildlife Refuge Administration Act (16 U.S.C. § 668dd), the National Park Service Organic Act (16 U.S.C. §§ 1, 2-4), the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. §1131, et seq.), Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA) (16 U.S.C. §§ 1801, et seq.), the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) (16 U.S.C. §§ 1451, et seq), the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA) (16 U.S.C. §§ 1431, et seq.) or any other Act, executive order, rule, regulation, policy, or initiative.

18. Defunding defense of IRS in Tea Party targeting lawsuits. There is no defense for using the Internal Revenue Service to target political enemies. So Congress could block funds for the defense of the Internal Revenue Service’s enforcement actions against of 501(c)(4) groups or those applying for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status during the years 2010 through 2012.

19. Defunding defense of health care law from constitutional challenges. The health care law has ushered in a new era of litigation surrounding the constitutionality of federal insurance programs and other mandates. Congress could block funds for the defense of any constitutional challenge to it.

20. Releasing Lois Lerner’s emails. Not everything needs to be a defund. In this case, the federal government sure seems to have a hard time releasing all of Lois Lerner’s emails to relevant congressional committees investigating the targeting of the Tea Party and other 501(c)(4) organizations. Congress could require that agencies use funds to immediately release all of Lois Lerner’s official emails to relevant House and Senate Committees.

21. Releasing Eric Holder’s emails. When he was Attorney General, Eric Holder and Barack Obama claimed executive privilege over documents surround the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal that got a Border Patrol agent and hundreds of Mexicans killed. Congress could require that agencies use funds to immediately release all of Eric Holder’s official emails to relevant House and Senate Committees. Leave no stone unturned.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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