Monday, December 4, 2023

Committee Hearings – Week of 12-3-23

As Congress heads into its last two scheduled weeks in Washington for 2023 without a funding shutdown immediately hanging over its head, we see a relatively light committee hearing schedule. There are two hearings of tangential interest here, one oversight hiring and a military cyber hearing.

NTIA Oversight

On Tuesday, the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on “Oversight of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration”. No witness list is currently available, but I expect that DOC Assistant Secretary Lawrence E. Strickling who heads the NTIA will be the principal (probably sole) witness.

Internet cybersecurity is a major focus of the NTIA. According to their ‘Cybersecurity’ page the agencies work in this area has included:

Software component transparency -- creating guidance for the use of a “Software Bill of Materials,” which functions as a list of ingredients that make up software components

Internet of Things security  – addressing key aspects of IoT security, including upgradability and patchability of connected devices

Cybersecurity vulnerability disclosures – increasing collaboration between security researchers and software and system developers and owners

Military Cyber Innovation

On Wednesday, the Cyber, Information Technologies, and Innovation (CITI) Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing “on using military advancements of the past to guide the Department of Defense’s technological advancements in the future.” (Catchy ‘Back to the Future’ title). No witness list is currently available, other than noting that it will consist of ‘outside experts’.

On the Floor

Nothing of particular interest on the schedule for the House this week. What is missing is the consideration of the Senate version of HR 4366. The Senate passed their version of this spending bill back on November 1st, and officially notified the House of the result on November 6th (had to get the revised bill printed). The Senate expanded the Military Construction spending bill passed by the House by adding their version of the ARD and THUD spending bills to make HR 4366 the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2024.

Typically, the Senate substantially amends spending bills, sending the bill back to the House (so far, so good). The House then takes up the bill under a closed rule and rejects the Senate amendment. The Senate then formally insists on their version and the two houses of Congress form a conference Committee to work out a compromise version of the bill that both Houses could accept.

The three-vote Republican majority in the House makes this a potential problem this year. If the Senate version of the bill is considered under a rule, then a simple majority would be required to accept the moderate Senate language. The Republican fringe that still has an effective veto in the House Rules Committee, cannot risk having a handful of Republican moderates joining a united Democratic caucus in passing the Senate language. They have backed themselves into a political corner and have no real way to get out.

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