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Republicans Leaders in a ‘Tight Spot’ After Insurrection Led By Trump, Say Brookings Panelists



Screenshot of panelists from the Brookings Institution webinar

January 19, 2021—The riots that led to an insurrection on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 continue to shock Americans and the world abroad. With less than an adequate defense, Congress could well have faced mass casualties in the Capitol building.

The aftermath of the insurrection leaves current Republican leaders in a tight spot, according to panelists participating in a virtual event at the Brookings Institution on Tuesday.

Moderate Republicans fear retaliation if they do not support Trump supporters. Yet, allowing past and present political circumstances to culminate into another insurrectionist-like event must be stopped, said Susan Hennessey, a senior fellow at the institution.

Republicans have long gone against democratic norms and are falling into a disturbing pattern, said Elaine Kamarck, another senior fellow at Brookings. Senior Fellow Molly Reynolds, added that the country needs “to reflect on the degree to which white supremacy is at the center of the attack on how the U.S. conducts its elections.”

In short, the Republican party must now figure out how to balance its internal beliefs with external pressures, mainly coming from President Donald Trump himself.

The panelists pointed to the effect social media, and the capabilities allotted to platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, had on elections. The moderation actions and inactions of social media companies play a significant role in how information is spread and received.

“Convincing those who disagree with the integrity of the elections is a challenge still looming,” said Rashawn Ray, a fellow at Brookings. Ray said that Trump and those before him have eroded trust in the government, media, and even science.

“The more we learn, the worse it looks,” added John Hudak, senior fellow in governance studies at Brookings, saying the Presidential election of 2020 is a watershed moment in U.S. history, as it marks the first time a president refused to concede and recognize election results peacefully. President Trump’s refusal to engage in diplomatic and ceremonious traditions, including attacking the election results’ credibility, has caused outrage never before seen, he said.

All of the senior fellows at Brookings largely agreed that Trump would not be convicted by the two-third vote necessary in the Senate following the House’s second impeachment of Trump. But it could be close. They agreed that the Sente trial would symbolize how urgent Republican leaders feel it is to callout Trump’s behavior as unacceptable.

Many have expressed disappointment with Vice President Mike Pence for not invoking Section 4 of the 25th Amendment in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection, which could have removed more quickly than a House impeachment and Senate trial.

However, invoking the 25th amendment is not an easy decision to make, Kamarck noted. She quoted Pence, saying, the 25th amendment “was not intended as a means of punishment or usurpation.” The 25th amendment should only be used if the person in question, is truly out of his mind and ill-fit.

Pence had to “thread the needle,” said Kamarck, as he chose not to punish or usurp President Trump of his power, balancing the challenges of being a mainstream Republican without estranging himself from the Republican party. Pence made it clear he would not give into President Trump’s demand that he refuse the certification of votes.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris face a near-impossible challenge of determining the best way to unify the country under such polarized conditions, they said. Yet many in America are looking to the new administration to present and execute a plan to get out of it.

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House of Representatives

Silicon Valley Rep. Anna Eshoo Will Not Seek Reelection

The lawmaker’s Silicon Valley seat will be open for the first time in decades.



Screenshot of Rep. Eshoo at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on October 19.

WASHINGTON, November 22, 2023 – Representative Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., announced on Tuesday that she will not seek reelection in 2024.

Eshoo’s retirement will leave up for grabs California’s 16th Congressional District, which includes Silicon Valley and parts of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. The San José Spotlight reported that multiple local Democrats are eyeing the solid blue seat

Her departure will also open up a spot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, whose purview includes telecommunications, tech and energy policy, public health, and food and drug safety.

The 80-year-old legislator was the first woman to represent her district and spent over 30 years in Congress. She sponsored bills on tech policy, including Section 230 changes and efforts to accelerate broadband build outs.

Eshoo touted her long legislative career in a video announcing her retirement, including 66 bills signed into law over five presidential administrations. 

“For three decades, you’ve given me your trust,” she said of her constituents. “I’ve given every fiber of my being to live up to that sacred trust.”

The lawmaker joins more than 30 lawmakers on Capitol Hill who have also announced plans to step down after their current terms. She will serve through January 2025.

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Experts Suggest Measures to Protect Affordable Connectivity Program at Senate Hearing

Under consideration: Opening the Universal Service Fund to contributions from broadband and Big Tech companies.



WASHINGTON, September 28, 2023 – A broadband association asked Congress last week to open the Universal Service Fund to contributions from broadband and Big Tech revenues to allow the umbrella fund to absorb and support the Affordable Connectivity Program.

The industry is concerned that the $14-billion ACP program, which discounts monthly services for low-income Americans and those on tribal lands, is going to run out of money by early next year. Meanwhile, it is universally agreed that the Universal Service Fund, which includes four high-cost broadband programs, is struggling to maintain its roughly $8-billion annual pace without a diversification of its revenue sources.

Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of USTelecom, told the Communications and Technology subcommittee studying the future of rural broadband on September 21 that Congress could both support the sustainability of the USF and the ACP by forcing contributions from broadband and Big Tech revenues.

The idea is that the extra revenue would solve the USF sustainability question by allowing the fund to continue to support the existing four programs under its purview, while also allowing it to adopt the ACP program, hence removing that program from reliance on Congress for money.

“We can have Congress give the FCC the authorities that it requires to be able to expand the contribution base, integrating the ACP within USF program, and thereby allowing the potentially out of control contribution factor that will potentially bog down the viability and longevity of the Universal Service Fund mechanisms to go down,” Spalter said.

“And in so doing it can expand the contribution base sufficiently to allow not only broadband but importantly the dominant Big Tech companies to participate so that we would effectively fuse the Affordable Connectivity Program with [high-cost program] Lifeline and do so in a way that would actually not require appropriated dollars from Congress.”

The ACP currently has around 21 million Americans signed up, but the FCC says many more are eligible. The commission has been allocating money to outreach groups to market the subsidy program.

While some have argued that the Federal Communications Commission could unilaterally expand the contribution base of the USF, the commission has elected to wait for Congress to make the requisite legislative reforms to give it that authority.

Forcing Big Tech companies, which rely on the internet to deliver their products, has been an idea tossed around by experts and promoted by Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr. Meanwhile, forcing broadband revenues to contribute to the fund has also received good support.

The concern for the ACP program is that the internet service providers rely on the $14 billion to continue to offer discounts.

“With funding set to be depleted early next year, initial notices of service termination could be out during the height of the holiday season in December – that’s a present none of our constituents deserve to receive,” said Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D-Calif.  

“Poverty is everywhere, but higher in rural America, in our region the reason most people can’t adopt service is due to lack of affordability, this impacts more households than lack of infrastructure alone,” said Sara Nichols, senior planner of the Land of Sky Regional Council of Government.

“It’s a program we simply can’t afford to lose,” added Nichols.

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Rural Utilities Service

White House Nominates Basil Gooden as Rural Development Chief at USDA

Gooden would be responsible for overseeing the activities of the Rural Utilities Services, an important broadband funding agency.



Photo of Basil Gooden from Virginia Tech's web site.

WASHINGTON, September 11, 2023 – The White House on Monday announced the nomination of Basil Gooden for Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack touted the nomination in a statement, saying that Gooden “is a widely-respected, accomplished champion for affordable housing, community advancement, and economic development. His public service career is informed by a lifelong commitment to agriculture and rural development.”

Gooden is the current director of state operations for rural development at USDA.

If confirmed for the position, Gooden would be responsible for overseeing the activities of the Rural Utilities Services, which encompasses the Water and Environment Programs, the Electric Program, and the Telecommunications Program, which is dedicated to improving the quality of life for rural Americans through providing funds to deploy rural telecommunications infrastructure.

The administration may seek additional funding for broadband through the department. RUS Administrator Andy Berke, the former mayor of Chatanooga, Tenn., who also served as a Commerce Department official with the title, “special representative for broadband.”

Running USDA’s Rural Utilities Service Isn’t Andy Berke’s First Act in Broadband

If selected for the position, Gooden would fill the void left behind by Xochitl Torres Small, who resigned from the role and was later confirmed by the Senate as deputy secretary of agriculture this past July.

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