Senate Republicans pledged to defund President Biden’s disinformation management committee at the Department of Homeland Security, further casting doubt on its future.
Montana Sen. Steve Daines and 17 other Republican lawmakers said they would oppose any appropriation or government funding bill, including money for the board. The argument was made in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, obtained exclusively by The Washington Times.
“The federal government, which should never be in the job of regulating speech or being the arbiter of truth, should undo this latest attempt at this slippery slope,” the lawmakers wrote.
The Department of Homeland Security announced earlier this week that it had suspended the activation of the Disinformation Commission after widespread opposition from conservative groups and civil libertarians. In particular, many lawmakers worry that the committee will become a censorship body for the federal government, with broad powers to regulate free speech on social media and other media.
Republican lawmakers specifically questioned the need for DHS to create such a panel, noting that law enforcement agencies already have the power to fight global disinformation.
Complicating matters, board-selected director Nina Jankowicz has a controversial history of inflammatory rhetoric about free speech and a penchant for sharing misinformation.
Ms Jankovic resigned shortly after Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorcas announced the board would be suspended. Ms Jankowicz said the decision was driven by a broad “misrepresentation” of her views and the type of work the board was trying to accomplish.
“It is deeply disappointing that the misrepresentation of the board has distracted from the vital work of the department, in fact, with recent events around the world and across the country, shows why this is necessary,” she said .
Despite the departure, DHS has pledged to revive the board in some way, saying its purpose is needed now more than ever.
“The board has been grossly and deliberately misrepresented: it has never in any way censored or regulated speech,” the department said in a statement. “It is designed to ensure that we fulfill our mission to protect the homeland while protecting core constitutional rights.”
Republicans have said they will block any new iteration of the board through a series of legislative processes to ensure tax dollars are not used to fund its work.
“There is a nuance between dealing with disinformation and government censorship,” Mr Daines and his colleagues wrote. “The exact location of the Disinformation Governance Council on this line remains unclear, the potential for abuse is significant, and we urge that any and all funding for the Council be prohibited in the DHS grant process.”