Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation

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Enhancing Data Security

Wed, 10/06/2021 - 10:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a full committee hearing titled “Enhancing Data Security” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 6, 2021.  This hearing is the second in a series examining the growing urgency to protect consumer privacy and safeguard our data, as well as the need to ensure the Federal Trade Commission is equipped with the authorities and resources to fight digital harms and hold bad actors accountable for increasing privacy violations, data breaches, internet scams, ransomware assaults and other harmful data abuses.

 

Details: 

 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

10:00 a.m. EDT

Full Committee (hybrid)

Commerce Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

 

 

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Cantwell Says Action Needed to Stem Tide of ID Theft, Ransomware, and Security Breaches

Wed, 10/06/2021 - 12:00am

US on track for record number of data breaches in 2021

 

Cantwell: “We know that a stronger FTC will help, but we need to give the FTC the resources that they need to do their job.”

 

Former FTC leaders, experts in ID theft, cybersecurity say it’s key for the FTC to have first time civil penalty authority

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.  –  In the second in a series of hearings on the urgent need to protect consumer privacy and data security, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, reiterated her call to create a data security and privacy enforcement bureau at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). She has also called on Congress to ensure it is equipped with the resources, first time civil penalty authority, and clear digital security standards needed to stem the tide of data breaches, identity theft and ransomware assaults that are harming millions of Americans. 

 

“Earlier this year, a hacker took Colonial Pipeline offline, causing fuel shortages across the East Coast,” said Senator Cantwell. “Ransomware attacks on hospitals have put patients’ lives at risk. We heard yesterday about Facebook going offline globally due to faulty configuration. There's word out this morning that Amazon may be facing its own situation today. So part of the problem is that we live in a more connected world. And what we know now is that when there is a data breach that consumers are the ones that pay the heavy price.”

 

Cantwell spoke about the devastating impact of data breaches in Washington state, pointing out that the Washington State Auditor’s Office, which had obtained claim forms in a review of the incident, “had been receiving unemployment fraud claims had its data compromised due to that vulnerability in the legacy system that was provided by a third party. Accellion systems were breached throughout the country, and we still don't know the extent of that breach. But in Washington, the personal information of 1.6 million residents was stolen.”

 

“…We know that the identity theft can have a devastating impact on individuals who can't obtain unemployment benefits because a criminal has already applied for them,” Senator Cantwell said.  “40% of these victims were not able to pay their bills. 14% were evicted for not paying rent, 33% did not have enough money for food and utilities, 13% were not able to get a job. So while most identity theft victims lose less than $500, 21% of these victims report losing more than $20,000.”

 

During questioning of experts, Sen. Cantwell asked each witness if they “support an FTC Privacy and Data Security Bureau.” All four expert witnesses agreed, including James E. Lee, Chief Operating Officer, Identity Theft Resource Center; Jessica Rich, of Counsel at Kelley Drye and Former Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC); Edward W. Felten, Robert E. Kahn Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs at Princeton University and Former Chief Technologist at the FTC; and Kate Tummarello, Executive Director of Engine.

 

“Do you support first time penalties?” Cantwell followed.  Again, all four witnesses agreed. 

 

Video of Senator Cantwell’s opening statement can be found HERE, the first round of Q&A with the witnesses is HERE, the second round HERE, and the final round and closing remarks HERE.

 

The full transcript can be found HERE.

 

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Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower

Tue, 10/05/2021 - 10:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security will convene a hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower” at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 5, 2021.  Recent Wall Street Journal investigations have revealed troubling insights regarding how Instagram affects teenagers, how it handles children onto the platform, and other consumer protection matters related to Facebook. The hearing will provide an opportunity for a Facebook whistleblower to discuss their perspective and experience with the Subcommittee, including how to update children’s privacy regulations and other laws to protect consumers online.

 

Details: 

 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

10:00 a.m. EDT

Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security Hearing

Commerce Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

 

 

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Wicker Expresses Concern About TikTok’s Involvement in U.S. Cyber Games

Mon, 10/04/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today sent a letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo expressing concern about the role TikTok will play in the first ever U.S. Cyber Games, an initiative receiving funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The U.S. Cyber Games represent an important initiative led by the private sector to promote cybersecurity careers, build a diverse and skilled cybersecurity workforce, and help to drive research on effective practices for cybersecurity workforce development.  

“Allowing TikTok to play any role in the first U.S. Cyber Games, including joining its board alongside U.S. federal officials, is unacceptable. TikTok should be given no opportunity to interfere in any of the nation’s cyber initiatives, let alone those carried out with financial support from American taxpayers,” Wicker wrote.

TikTok is a founding sponsor of the Games and will serve on its Advisory Board alongside personnel from U.S. defense and intelligence agencies. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken an ownership stake in a key subsidiary of the parent company of TikTok. Given China’s relentless efforts to undermine America’s cybersecurity, it raises grave concerns that a company with ties to the CCP would play any role in helping to build the next generation of U.S. cyber professionals. In addition to its CCP ties, a recent Wall Street Journal investigation raised serious questions about how TikTok’s technology can expose minors to harmful content.     

Click here to read the full letter below.

Dear Secretary Raimondo:

I am concerned to learn about the involvement of TikTok in the inaugural U.S. Cyber Games, an initiative led by a private company in cooperation with the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) program at NIST. The U.S. Cyber Games represent an important initiative led by the private sector to promote cybersecurity careers, build a diverse and skilled cybersecurity workforce, and help to drive research on effective practices for cybersecurity workforce development.  

This August, TikTok announced that it would be the founding sponsor of the games and that its Chief Security Officer would be joining the U.S. Cyber Games Advisory Board alongside members from NIST, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and other U.S. leaders in cybersecurity.

In April of this year, the CCP took an ownership stake and one of three board seats in Beijing-headquartered ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok. We should not underestimate the dangerous influence or potential involvement the CCP has in the company. The CCP has repeatedly demonstrated its desire to exploit vulnerabilities in cyberspace and compromise America’s economic and national security. As one example, the Department of Justice recently indicted four Chinese nationals and residents who conspired with Chinese state security to hack into and steal data from U.S. companies, universities, and government entities.  

Allowing TikTok to play any role in the first U.S. Cyber Games, including joining its board alongside U.S. federal officials, is unacceptable. TikTok should be given no opportunity to interfere in any of the nation’s cyber initiatives, let alone those carried out with financial support from American taxpayers. Even though NIST is named as a “Founding Partner” of the games, it is my understanding that the private company leading the games is the entity responsible for involving TikTok. However, I would have expected NIST to exercise greater judgment and oversight over its awardees concerning which entities they pursue and with whom they form direct relationships.

I urge you to take action toward ensuring that NIST and its partners are fully aligned and held accountable in keeping our nation secure. 

I appreciate your attention to this critical matter and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram, and Mental Health Harms

Thu, 09/30/2021 - 10:30am

WASHINGTON, D.C. —U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security will convene a hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram, and Mental Health Harms” at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 30, 2021.  Children and teens face immense peer pressure and social expectations to broadcast their lives online. Recent Wall Street Journal investigations have revealed troubling insights regarding what Facebook knows about how Instagram affects young users, including their mental health. This hearing will cover Facebook’s research into the impact of its apps on young audiences, its actions to address threats to these users, and policy considerations to safeguard kids online.

 

Witnesses: 

 

  • Antigone Davis, Director, Global Head of Safety, Facebook

 

Details: 

 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

10:30 a.m.  EDT

Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security Hearing

Commerce Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

 

 

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TODAY: At Hearing With Facebook Safety Head, Cantwell Says Children Need Stronger Protection from Digital Abuse, Harm

Thu, 09/30/2021 - 12:00am

 

YESTERDAY: Cantwell Push to Create Stronger, Sharper, Tougher Consumer Protection Watchdog Gets Backing From Former Federal Enforcement Officials

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  U.S. Senator Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today underscored the urgent need to strengthen federal digital protections for children during a subcommittee hearing in response to revelations that Facebook and Instagram were aware of the harmful impact its products have on children and teenagers. Today’s comments follow a hearing Sen. Cantwell chaired yesterday regarding her push to create a privacy and data security enforcement bureau at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and invest significant federal resources to ensure it is equipped with the authorities and resources to fight digital harms and hold bad actors accountable for privacy violations, deception, data breaches, internet scams, ransomware assaults and other data abuses.

 

“Data collection of children… should have more aggressive attention… and we need to update the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act,” Sen. Cantwell said at today’s subcommittee hearing.  “I think it's very important to understand that our committee would like to move forward on stronger privacy legislation.”

 

At Sen. Cantwell’s full committee hearing yesterday, senators heard directly from former FTC officials who recounted how the severe lack of resources, technology and staffing expertise has left the agency unable to keep pace with the growing wave of privacy and data abuses. Sen. Cantwell pushed to for $1 billion in federal funding as part of the Build Back Better bill to create a robust privacy and data security enforcement bureau at the FTC and called for a bureau in her 2019 privacy legislation.

 

“Our precise locations, fitness regimens, computer strokes, and even our friends and family networks have basically been turned into commodities,” Sen. Cantwell said, explaining that while a digital economy has created new services and products, “it also exposed and threatened consumer privacy by unnecessarily collecting, storing, selling, and exposing consumers’ most personal data to theft and harm.”

 

“[F]rom July 2019 through July 2020, more than 650,000 residents of my state, Washington, were victims of data breaches, including the release of their healthcare information, banking records, social security numbers, and credit card information,” Cantwell continued. “The truth is that our economy has changed significantly and the Federal Trade Commission has neither the adequate resources, nor the technological expertise at the FTC to adequately protect consumers from harm.”

 

“Even where the FTC has taken enforcement actions against companies, the companies continue to violate those FTC orders, which is beyond frustrating,” Sen. Cantwell added. “Even though the FTC has been able to use their current authority of unfair and deceptive practices, companies like Facebook or others may gladly pay a $5 billion fine, when actually, they can still make over $70 billion a year from some of these same practices.”

 

 

 

CLICK HERE TO WATCH SEN. CANTWELL OPENING REMARKS AND HERE FOR FULL TRANSCRIPT

 

Asked by Cantwell if they “support more resources at the FTC, “similar to what we've been talking about as it relates to this reconciliation item on the FTC having more of a privacy enforcement authority,” all four witnesses agreed, including David Vladeck, former Director of the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection and current Faculty Director at the Center on Privacy and Technology, Georgetown Law; Maureen Ohlhausen, former Acting Chair of the Federal Trade Commission and current Partner and Section Chair, Baker Botts; Ashkan Soltani, former Chief Technologist of the Federal Trade Commission and current Independent Researcher and Technologist; and Trade Morgan Reed, President of the App Association.

 

 

CLICK HERE TO WATCH CANTWELL EXCHANGE WITH WITNESSES

 

Vladeck described the impact Cantwell’s proposal to boost resources by $1 billion would have on the FTC’s enforcement capacity:  “One area in which [the FTC needs] resources is being able to hire more technologists and engineers. I don't think the FTC has ever had a cohort as many as 10 technologists on staff.   When it comes to enforcement, oversight of existing consent decrees, there is a division within the Bureau of Consumer Protection that has about 45 staff members, and oversees more than 1,000 ongoing consent orders, or litigated orders imposed by a court. The volume of orders that need to be sorted, reviewed and subject to reporting requirements overwhelms the ability of staff to do the kind of surveillance of a company under orders is required,” he said.

 

“Take a look at Facebook, it was the one of the first real major privacy orders we engaged in. We did not have technologists and staff who could spend time reviewing closely what the company was doing,” Vladeck continued. “And that's an endemic problem. And it's going to be an enduring problem unless Congress devotes more resources to the FTC.”

“[T]he FTC is critically under-resourced to oversee the nation's myriad of privacy and cybersecurity issues,” Soltani testified.  “With a bare bones staff of about 40 attorneys and a handful of technologists, their resources pale in contrast to their counterparts in other countries. The resource problem is exasperated when businesses choose to litigate a case rather than accept a settlement The proposal to create a fund and new bureau at the FTC is a strong step forward at providing the commission with new resources it needs desperately to effectively protect consumers in the digital economy. A new bureau focused on technology and data protection would help the FTC support its mission of placing unfair and deceptive trade practices related to privacy, data security, identity theft, and data abuses.”

Video of the all witness testimonies is available HERE, audio is available HERE.

 

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Wicker in Washington Examiner: FTC must leave privacy legislating to Congress

Thu, 09/30/2021 - 12:00am

Consumer data powers today’s digital economy. Data is the coveted resource that is fueling explosive growth across multiple sectors, yielding exciting new innovations in areas as diverse as artificial intelligence, medical diagnostics, and automated vehicles. People have also experienced the practical benefits of data during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more individuals are relying on internet-based technologies to connect to work, school, healthcare, and their loved ones.

Despite these tremendous benefits, the ubiquity of data has also raised privacy concerns. Consumers want to know what personal information is being collected about them, and they want some say in how it is aggregated, used, and shared. On the industry side, businesses need a clear set of rules that will not slow the development of promising technologies. Congress has been working hard to develop a long-term legislative framework that addresses the needs of both consumers and innovators.

Some European countries have already begun adopting new privacy laws, as have certain U.S. states. Although the desire for these laws is understandable, a patchwork of state privacy laws is unworkable, as data moving over the internet does not recognize state boundaries. These laws have also come at a cost to industry. Expanded consumer protections have had clear impacts on investment, competition, and innovation. These trade-offs highlight the need for policymakers to balance the various interests at stake in crafting privacy policy.

In recent months, some have proposed that the Federal Trade Commission take up privacy reforms unilaterally through executive rulemaking. This would be a step in the wrong direction. America needs a national consumer privacy law, but such a law must be the product of Congress.

This lone ranger approach would also be a recipe for bad policy. It is simply impossible for five commissioners at the FTC to take into account the complex privacy interests of 330 million consumers and thousands of private enterprises. Inevitably, the commissioners would favor certain business models over others, triggering massive penalties against practices they personally disfavor. These top-down dictates would also face the constant specter of reversal under a new administration, thereby failing to provide the certainty that innovators need. Only Congress can provide the durable, fine-tuned legislation that will serve America for decades to come.

Every person and business in the United States has an interest in the outcome of these deliberations. It is precisely because the stakes are so high that rules cannot be the result of an agency edict. A national law must be the product of debate and compromise among the people’s representatives, and we are committed to seeing this process through.

Once Congress determines the path forward on privacy, the FTC will be the right agency to carry out the law. The FTC’s smart and dedicated staff have been tackling these thorny questions for decades, and today the commission is the most effective privacy enforcer in the world.

All of us support legislation that would give consumers baseline protections by increasing transparency, choice, and consumer control over personal data. We want guardrails for responsible data use that will give consumers confidence for the future while securing a level playing field for innovators operating all across the country. Americans expect us to meet this defining challenge at the dawn of the digital age. We intend to work with our colleagues in Congress to get the policy right and get the job done this Congress.

This op-ed was orginally ran in Washington Examiner

Wicker Raises Concerns Over CPSC Acting Chairman’s Nullification of FY2022 Operating Plan

Thu, 09/30/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today sent a letter urging Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Acting Chairman Robert Adler to adopt the Commission’s Operating Plan for Fiscal Year 2022 as amended by majority vote. This follows Acting Chairman Adler’s recent instruction to the Acting General Counsel to nullify a 2-1 vote to approve the Operating Plan.

“There is no way to interpret this action except as a brazen act of sabotage by an acting Chairman who found himself on the losing side of a vote. During my tenure as ranking member and formerly as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has oversight jurisdiction over the CPSC, I have never seen a vote by the Senate-confirmed commissioners of an independent agency nullified by an Acting General Counsel,” Wicker wrote.

“This action would be gravely troubling no matter the subject of the vote, but I am especially disappointed that it will now impact the CPSC’s ability to implement needed improvements to its operations.”

The amended Operating Plan approved on September 24 includes directives to implement recommendations made by the CPSC Inspector General in response to the 2019 data breach that was the subject of an investigation by Commerce Committee staff last Congress. The plan would add 27 new port inspectors to make up for last year’s lapses in screening for potentially dangerous products coming through U.S. ports of entry. In addition, the plan requires CPSC to turn away from a misguided effort to increase its presence on the Chinese-owned social media platform, TikTok. 

In October 2019, the Commerce Committee released a report on the CPSC’s violation of section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) and subsequent data breaches. This year Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-Wash., ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, joined Wicker in a letter to Acting Chairman Adler regarding port inspection shortfalls. 

Click here to read the full letter.

Click here for a joint statement from CPSC Commissioners Dana Baiocco and Peter Feldman on the passage of the Operating Plan.

Protecting Consumer Privacy

Wed, 09/29/2021 - 10:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. —U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will convene a hearing titled “Protecting Consumer Privacy” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 29, 2021. This hearing will examine how to better safeguard consumer privacy rights, including by equipping the Federal Trade Commission with the resources it needs to protect consumer privacy through the creation of a privacy bureau; and the need for a comprehensive federal privacy law.

 

Witnesses: 

 

  • David Vladeck, Professor and Faculty Director the Center on Privacy and Technology, Georgetown Law; former Director of the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection
  • Morgan Reed, President, The App Association
  • Maureen Ohlhausen, Partner and Section Chair (Antitrust & Competition Law), Baker Botts; former Acting Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission
  • Ashkan Soltani, Independent Researcher and Technologist; former Chief Technologist of the Federal Trade Commission

  

Details: 

 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

10:00 am EDT

Commerce Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

 

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Wicker Urges Congress to Pass Federal Data Privacy Legislation

Wed, 09/29/2021 - 12:00am

Click here to watch Sen. Wicker’s remarks.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today during the committee hearing on consumer data privacy expressed the importance of Congress passing a comprehensive national data privacy law.

“Since the full committee last convened on this topic over a year ago, the need for strong data privacy rules has become more urgent,” said Wicker. “In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans have shifted their normal activities to online. This has resulted in more consumer data and personal information flowing throughout the economy than ever before. Without a national data privacy law in place, Americans will continue to face a growing risk of having their personal data exposed and potentially exploited.” 

In the first set of questions to the panel of witnesses, Wicker referenced a Wall Street Journal article on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) consideration of a rule to strengthen online privacy protections in an effort to bypass Congress in passing legislation. Wicker asked the panel about the FTC’s role in addressing consumer privacy.   

David Vladeck, former Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, agreed that Congress is the right body to decide what the law should be.

Morgan Reed, President of ACT | The App Association, went on to explain that “preemption is the key to small business success” and that “we can’t depend on a Supreme Court decision down the road.”

Wicker then asked the panel about the inclusion of a private right of action in data privacy legislation.

“Often times a private right of action hinders innovation, consumer choice, and ends up benefiting trial lawyers rather than consumers,” said Wicker. 

FTC Former Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen shared concerns on the way a broad private right of action is used in other statutes that does not serve consumer interests and is a burden on small businesses.

Ashkan Soltani, former Chief Technologist of the FTC, believes a private right of action makes up for the concern that there is not enough enforcement capacity.

Wicker emphasized that Congress, not the FTC, is responsible for developing a comprehensive national data privacy law, and anything short of congressional action would create significant regulatory uncertainty for businesses and confuse consumers about the scope and durability of their privacy rights.

House Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-Wash., FTC Commissioner Noah Philips, and Wicker wrote a joint op-ed, published today in the Washington Examiner, to address how much power the FTC should have over developing data protections and to urge Congress to pass legislation. They agree that a federal agency attempting to rewrite privacy law would be a blatant overreach that would almost certainly invite legal challenges.

Wicker has championed the need for a federal data privacy law while serving as the top Republican leader of the Committee. In July, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, joined Wicker in reintroducing the SAFE DATA Act, which would provide Americans with more choice and control over their data and direct businesses to be more transparent and accountable for their data practices. Wicker also led a letter with Blackburn, McMorris Rogers, and House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce Ranking Member Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., urging President Joseph Biden to prioritize comprehensive data privacy legislation as part of the Administration’s agenda. 

Senate Ranking Members Urge DOJ to Restore Information Access for Minority Committee Leaders

Fri, 09/24/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, led Senate committee ranking members in a letter to U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney General Merrick Garland imploring the DOJ to rescind the Office of Legal Counsel’s (OLC) 2017 opinion, which advises departments and agencies that they can ignore document requests from minority leadership of congressional committees.

“The opinion creates insurmountable challenges for ranking members in conducting effective oversight. To restore the balance of information access between majority and minority leadership on committees, and as proponents of fair, transparent government, we implore the Justice Department to take action,” the ranking members wrote.

Members who joined Wicker in the letter include: Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee; Tim Scott, R-S.C., ranking member of the Special Committee on Aging; John Boozman, R-Ark., ranking member of the Agriculture Committee; Richard Shelby, R-Ala., vice-chair of the Appropriations Committee; James Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking member of the Armed Services Committee; Pat Toomey, R-Pa., ranking member of the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., ranking member of the Budget Committee; John Barrasso, R-Wyo., ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, ranking member of the Finance Committee; James Risch, R-Idaho, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee; Richard Burr, R-N.C., ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; Rob Portman, R-Ohio, ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, ranking member of the Indian Affairs Committee; Marco Rubio, R-Fla., vice-chair of the Intelligence Committee; Roy Blunt, R-Mo., ranking member of the Rules Committee; Rand Paul, R-Ky., ranking member of the Small Business Committee; and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., ranking member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Excerpt from the letter:

The OLC released an opinion on May 1, 2017 about the authority of individual Members of Congress to engage in oversight of the Executive Branch. It concluded that “[i]ndividual members of Congress, including ranking minority members, do not have the authority to conduct oversight in the absence of a specific delegation by a full house, committee, or subcommittee.” Not only does this opinion misinterpret the constitutional responsibilities of Congress for monitoring the activities of the Executive Branch but it fails to provide clarity on whether those same limitations apply to information requests made to Offices of Inspectors General (OIG).

The OLC opinion, which advises departments and agencies that they can ignore requests from Ranking Members, is based on grounds unsupported by the Constitution. Instead of respecting the separation of powers, the opinion ignores that our system of government vests Congress with all legislative responsibilities. Recognizing the importance of broad congressional access to information about activities in the Executive Branch, the Supreme Court acknowledged that “the power of inquiry is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function.” Unfortunately, the opinion authored by then-Acting Assistant Attorney General Curtis E. Cannon inhibits Congress from fulfilling its duty of overseeing the programs it legislates into law, specifically by treating Ranking Members of congressional committees no differently than private citizens.

Click here to read the full letter.  

Committee Approves Biden Nominations for CPSC, DOC

Thu, 09/23/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the following three nominations, all of whom are now subject to approval by the full Senate.

  1. Nomination of Alexander Hoehn-Saric, to be a Commissioner and Chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission

 

  1. Nomination of Grant Harris, to be Assistant Secretary for Industry and Analysis, Department of Commerce

 

  1. Nomination of Richard Trumka Jr. to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission 

Executive Session

Wed, 09/22/2021 - 10:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene an executive session at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 22, 2021 to consider the presidential nominations of Alexander Hoehn-Saric to be a Commissioner and Chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC); Mary T. Boyle to be a Commissioner of the CPSC; Richard Trumka, Jr. to be a Commissioner of the CPSC; and Grant Harris to be Assistant Secretary for Industry and Analysis at the Department of Commerce.

Immediately following the executive session, the Committee will hold a hearing to consider the presidential nominations of Victoria Marie Baecher Wassmer, to be Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Transportation (DOT); Mohsin Raza Syed, to be Assistant Secretary of Government Affairs at DOT; Amitabha Bose, to be Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration; and Meera Joshi, to be Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

DETAILS

 

Commerce Committee Executive Session

10:00 a.m.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

 

Executive Session Agenda: 

  • Nomination of Alexander Hoehn-Saric, to be a Commissioner and Chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Nomination of Mary T. Boyle, to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Richard Trumka Jr., to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission  
  • Grant Harris, to be Assistant Secretary for Industry and Analysis, Department of Commerce

At the conclusion of the markup, the Committee will go directly into the nomination hearing.

Nominees: 

  • Victoria Marie Baecher Wassmer,?to be Chief Financial Officer, DOT
  • Mohsin Raza Syed, to be Assistant Secretary of Government Affairs, DOT
  • Amitabha Bose, to be Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, DOT
  • Meera Joshi, to be Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration 

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

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Legislative Solutions to Revive Travel and Tourism and Create Jobs

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 3:00pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Chair of the Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion will convene a hearing titled “Legislative Solutions to Revive Travel and Tourism and Create Jobs” at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 21, 2021. This hearing will examine a staff discussion draft of bipartisan legislation, the Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act of 2021, that would support the recovery of the travel and tourism economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The draft Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act includes provisions to study the impacts of COVD-19 on the travel and tourism industry, elevate travel and tourism matters at the US Department of Commerce, promote travel to the United States, and set visitation goals for international travelers to the United States.

  

Witnesses: 

 

  • Ms. Tori Emerson Barnes, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy, U.S. Travel Association
  • Mr. Christopher Bidwell, Senior Vice President of Security, Airports Council International – North America
  • Mr. Chirag Shah, Senior Vice President of Federal Affairs, American Hotel and Lodging Association
  • Ms. Suzanne Neufang, CEO, Global Business Travel Association

 

*Witness List is Subject to Change 

Hearing Details: 

 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

3:00 P.M. EDT 

Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion

Senate Commerce Committee Hearing Room

Russell 253

 

Livestream available at www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present. 

 

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Commerce Committee Announces Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion Subcommittee Hearing on September 21, 2021

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 3:00pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Chair of the Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion will convene a hearing titled “Legislative Solutions to Revive Travel and Tourism and Create Jobs” at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 21, 2021. This hearing will examine a staff discussion draft of bipartisan legislation, the Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act of 2021, that would support the recovery of the travel and tourism economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The draft Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act includes provisions to study the impacts of COVD-19 on the travel and tourism industry, elevate travel and tourism matters at the US Department of Commerce, promote travel to the United States, and set visitation goals for international travelers to the United States.

  

Witnesses: 

 

  • Tori Emerson Barnes, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy, U.S. Travel Association
  • Christopher Bidwell, Senior Vice President of Security, Airports Council International – North America
  • Chirag Shah, Senior Vice President of Federal Affairs, American Hotel and Lodging Association
  • Suzanne Neufang, CEO, Global Business Travel Association

 

*Witness List is Subject to Change 

Hearing Details: 

 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

3:00 P.M. EDT 

Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion

Senate Commerce Committee Hearing Room

Russell 253

 

Livestream available at www.commerce.senate.gov

 

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present. 

 

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Wicker, Cardin Introduce Bill to Support Maritime Workforce

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Ben Cardin, D-Md., today introduced the Maritime Technological Advancement Act. The legislation would establish a grant program to develop, offer, or improve educational or career training programs for American workers in the maritime workforce. 

“A qualified maritime workforce is essential for our national security and economic prosperity,” said Wicker. “However, there is currently a shortage of licensed workers with the appropriate training and technical skills to meet the needs of this growing industry. Our proposal would support community and technical colleges in developing a capable workforce to address operations at sea and ashore, as well as in shipbuilding, port operations, and cybersecurity.”

“From the dedicated public servants at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore that repair and rehabilitate our Coast Guard fleet, to the longshoremen and logistic personnel who transport billions of dollars of international cargo, Maryland’s maritime industries surrounding the Port of Baltimore are key components of the economic growth of our state,” said Cardin. “This legislation provides funding to strengthen our local institutions that have track records of success in developing the skilled maritime workforce necessary to maintain and strengthen this critical industry.”

The Maritime Technological Advancement Act would: 

  • Authorize the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration to provide funding for two-year public institutions of higher education to develop, offer, or improve educational or career training programs for workers related to the maritime workforce along the nation’s coasts, Mississippi River System, the Great Lakes, and other inland waterways; 
  • Support initiatives to expand an institution’s capacity to train the maritime workforce; and
  • Authorize appropriations of $40 million annually for fiscal year 2022 through 2026.

Click here to read the bill.

Cantwell, Durbin Call on DOJ, FAA to Toughen Actions Against Dangerous Airline Passengers

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Richard Durbin, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee today sent separate letters to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Steve Dickson regarding increased incidents involving dangerous airline passengers.  The senators called on the agencies to coordinate efforts to ensure that those airline passengers who commit criminal acts are prosecuted. 

 

“Civil penalties alone are failing to deter criminal activity by airline passengers,” Sens. Cantwell and Durbin wrote to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “Robust and public efforts to prosecute those who endanger passengers and crewmembers are necessary to deter interference with safe air travel.  The FAA plays a critical role in investigating and referring criminal incidents to federal law enforcement authorities.”

 

As of September 14, 2021, there have been 4,284 reports of unruly passenger incidents this year—3,123 of which were mask-related.  Additionally, the FAA has initiated 755 investigations into unruly passengers, which is more than double the investigations for 2019 and 2020 combined.  The FAA has initiated enforcement actions in 154 cases, levying more than one million dollars in fines.

 

“As you know, DOJ has ample authority to prosecute those who commit crimes while onboard an aircraft,” the senators wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland. “It is critical that DOJ direct federal law enforcement agents and prosecutors to use these authorities to fully investigate reported incidents on aircraft, and, when supported by the evidence, prosecute those who are criminally responsible.”

 

According to a recent survey of flight attendants, over 85% of respondents had dealt with unruly passengers in the first half of 2021.

 

Cantwell and Durbin also asked for a briefing from DOJ and FAA to inform Congressional oversight of the issue no later than October 11, 2021.

 

A copy of today’s letter to DOJ is available here.

 

A copy of today’s letter to FAA is available here.

 

 

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Wicker Questions Drone Flight Restriction at Mexican Border

Fri, 09/17/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today sent a letter requesting Federal Aviation Administrator (FAA) Steve Dickson to explain the implementation of the two-week Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) over the international bridge into Del Rio, Texas, and to promptly process any waiver sought by the media to ensure that the First Amendment is protected.

Click here or read the letter below:

Dear Administrator Dickson:

The worsening situation on our southern border is a crisis that requires the Biden Administration’s attention. Reports suggest that the number of migrants waiting to cross the international bridge into Del Rio, Texas, has swollen precipitously in recent days, underscoring the urgent need for the Administration to respond by securing our border.

Disconcerting images showing thousands of migrants waiting under the bridge surfaced on September 16, 2021. I understand that the FAA on the same day implemented a two-week TFR over the area at the request of Customs and Border Protection, thus preventing drone imaging of the bridge by media outlets unless a waiver is granted.  

To ensure that the First Amendment is protected, I expect that the FAA will promptly process any waiver sought by the media, which I understand is standard practice. Given the concerns raised by this matter, I request a briefing with an explanation for implementing this aviation restriction at the Mexican border.

I appreciate your attention to this issue.

Sincerely,

Executive Session

Wed, 09/15/2021 - 10:00am

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene an executive session at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 to consider the presidential nominations of Alexander Hoehn-Saric to be a Commissioner and Chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC); Mary T. Boyle to be a Commissioner of the CPSC; Richard Trumka, Jr. to be a Commissioner of the CPSC; and Grant Harris to be Assistant Secretary for Industry and Analysis at the Department of Commerce.

Immediately following the executive session, the Committee will hold a hearing to consider the presidential nominations of Victoria Marie Baecher Wassmer, to be Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Transportation (DOT); Mohsin Raza Syed, to be Assistant Secretary of Government Affairs at DOT; Amitabha Bose, to be Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration; and Meera Joshi, to be Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

DETAILS

Commerce Committee Executive Session

10:00 a.m.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Committee Hearing Room, Russell 253

Executive Session Agenda: 

  • Nomination of Alexander Hoehn-Saric, to be a Commissioner and Chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Nomination of Mary T. Boyle, to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Richard Trumka Jr., to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission  
  • Grant Harris, to be Assistant Secretary for Industry and Analysis, Department of Commerce

At the conclusion of the markup, the Committee will go directly into the nomination hearing.

Nominees: 

  • Victoria Marie Baecher Wassmer,?to be Chief Financial Officer, DOT
  • Mohsin Raza Syed, to be Assistant Secretary of Government Affairs, DOT
  • Amitabha Bose, to be Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, DOT
  • Meera Joshi, to be Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration 

 

WATCH LIVESTREAM:  www.commerce.senate.gov

Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream. Social distancing is now lifted for vaccinated members of the press who wish to attend. The Office of the Attending Physician recommends that all individuals wear masks while in interior spaces and other individuals are present.

Wicker Statement on Commerce Department’s Report Confirming Misconduct at ITMS

Fri, 09/03/2021 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today released the following statement after the Department of Commerce issued a report on the misconduct at the Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS):

“I am encouraged by the actions taken by Secretary Raimondo to correct the egregious misconduct within the Commerce Department,” said Wicker. “I will complete a thorough review of the Secretary’s report and consider additional oversight to ensure compliance with these corrective actions. We will continue to investigate why the Department’s Inspector General previously failed to address the allegations of abuse of power, ethnic targeting, and reprisal by ITMS staff.”

Wicker launched an investigation into alleged misconduct in the ITMS after whistleblowers reported a variety of improper activities dating back to the mid-2000s involving abuse of authority, mismanagement, and reprisal against Department employees. In July, Wicker released a Committee report detailing the misconduct.

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