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What CMR's exit means for tech

Feb 8, 2024
A person stands under a bright light

CMR on July 11, 2023. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

When observers say Congress hasn't been able to regulate tech for decades, they mean — in part — the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Why it matters: That pattern continued to be the case under Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who announced on Thursday she wouldn't seek re-election.

  • Her successor will inherit the same tech regulation impasses that have plagued Republican and Democratic committee leaders alike.
  • Rep. Bob Latta, who will be the most senior Republican on the committee next Congress, will run for chair, a source familiar told Axios.
  • Latta is chair of the communications and technology subcommittee, where he has led efforts to ensure internet money is deployed responsibly and promote precision agriculture through satellite connectivity.
  • Health subcommittee chair Brett Guthrie's spokesman confirmed to Axios that he will run for the full committee chairmanship.

Of note: There are bright spots in the telecom world.

  • E&C under CMR advanced several bills that would streamline broadband permitting and give the FCC its spectrum auction authority back.

As ranking member in 2022, CMR played a key role in reviving efforts to pass a federal privacy law with the introduction of the bipartisan American Data Privacy and Protection Act.

  • But, fast forward to this Congress, CMR hasn't reintroduced it as chair of the committee.
  • CMR may reintroduce ADPPA and clear it out of committee before she leaves, but the bill would face an uphill climb.

Tech discussions at E&C have evolved to highlight the nexus of privacy and AI, without a bill in play to back it up.

  • Instead, a variety of hearings have been held to boost lawmakers' understanding of the technology

Flashback: All eyes were on E&C last March when CMR brought TikTok CEO Shou Chew to testify on privacy, kids and the platform's ties to China.

  • CMR was among the most vocal lawmakers when it came to the national security concerns around TikTok, calling to ban the app. But she never introduced legislation.
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