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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Marsha Blackburn, the Republican chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's tech subcommittee, has been critical of Silicon Valley's default position on net neutrality and its privacy practices.

But she says she found common ground during a recent visit to tech companies on the West Coast: ""I think with a broad brush that it is fair to say that when it comes to broadband expansion they are all incredibly interested about how we're going to do and what we're going to do," she told Axios on Friday.

Here's what else she had to say:

On net neutrality: Blackburn and other GOP lawmakers are on an ISP-backed quest to codify net neutrality rules in law, as Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai moves to roll back the current rules. She said that companies want "to have their say and to do something on where there is agreement." It remains to be seen, however, whether there'll be enough agreement for all the parties involved to hammer out a deal.On her privacy proposal: Blackburn has introduced a bill that would require web firms like Facebook and Google (as well as ISPs) to get permission before letting marketers use customers' data to target ads. "I am positive," she said of her outlook on the proposal. "I'm optimistic." She said a "real win would be to have an aggressive discussion" about the issue in the fall.On free speech on the internet: We also asked her about her views on internet companies removing hate speech from their platforms or systems, which some say raise questions of free speech in a world where private companies have a lot of control over who sees what points of view. She said it's "something that will come up in discussion" down the road about the responsibility that web companies have.

Go deeper

Storms pummel flood-hit Pacific Northwest as border river overflows

An image of the water-logged Sumas Prairie area taken last Friday. Photo: B.C. Ministry of Transportation/Twitter.

The latest ferocious storm system to hit the Pacific Northwest triggered fresh evacuation orders and at least one mudslide in flood-ravaged British Columbia, Canada, late Sunday.

Threat level: Flood sirens sounded in Washington state as the Nooksack River overflowed. Henry Braun, mayor of Abbotsford, B.C., told reporters the water flow was headed toward the Canadian border city later Sunday. "There's nothing to stop it," he said.

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

Former Defense Secretary Esper sues Pentagon over book

Former President Trump and former Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the White House in 2020. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper filed a lawsuit Sunday against the Defense Department, accusing the Pentagon of "censoring" his First Amendment rights by redacting aspects of his upcoming book on the Trump administration.

The big picture: Esper, who served as defense secretary from July 2019 until he was fired by then-President Trump in November last year, alleges in the suit that "significant text" is "being improperly withheld from publication" of the manuscript "under the guise of classification."