First 2019 Senate Commerce Committee Meeting

Excerpt from Roger Chairman Wicker’s opening statement, Jan 16, 2019, as posted here.

Wicker Chairs First Hearing of Senate Commerce Committee

The bar has indeed been set high. This committee accomplished a great deal last congress, and I look forward to similar successes this congress. In particular, I see this committee focusing on a number of primary objectives across the committee’s broad jurisdiction.

Broadband connectivity is the digital engine driving investment, innovation, and productivity in virtually every economic sector in the United States. Although we have made significant progress on wireline, wireless, and satellite broadband deployments over the years, more needs to be done to close the digital divide, particularly in rural America.

This process should start with collecting standardized and accurate data about where reliable fixed and mobile broadband already exists and where it does not – both in my state of Mississippi and around the country. Data is critical to delivering broadband to rural communities that lack service.

We will also continue the committee’s efforts to maintain U.S. leadership in 5G, the next-generation of broadband services. To that end, modernizing outdated rules that delay and add unnecessary costs to broadband infrastructure deployment and making more spectrum available for commercial use will be critical to our nation’s success in developing a reliable, resilient, and secure [densified 4G and] 5G network.

Robust and reliable broadband connections underpin the internet marketplace where innovative applications and services are taking on more significant and vital roles in our lives. Maintaining consumer trust and confidence in this marketplace is critical to preserving a prosperous and thriving digital economy in the United States. A priority of this committee will be to protect the privacy of consumers’ data in a way that promotes industry transparency, consumer choice, and innovation.

We will continue our efforts to keep the skies safe and foster American leadership in outer space. These efforts will include oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration and the safe integration of unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace. They will also, I hope, include a commercial space bill and a National Aeronautics and Space Administration reauthorization.

With creation of a new security subcommittee, we will be able to focus on supporting the organizations — such as the Coast Guard, Maritime Administration, and Transportation Security Administration — whose efforts strengthen the nation’s economic prosperity and security. I hope these efforts will include Coast Guard and Maritime Administration reauthorizations, support for the American maritime industry, and a focus on the national security dimensions of agencies and issues under the committee’s jurisdiction.

I look forward to the committee continuing its work on improving the nation’s infrastructure and safety. Work this congress will likely include a pipeline safety reauthorization as well as the reauthorization of the ‘FAST Act.

I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on a range of issues important to their states and to all Americans.

I thank my colleagues again for giving me the opportunity to lead this great committee.

Ranking Member Opening Remarks

by Sen. Maria Cantwell, (D-WA) Jan 16, 2019 | Original post here.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and let me congratulate you on taking the gavel of this committee and for your past leadership here in the Commerce Committee on a myriad of important issues. You mentioned several of them: communications, fisheries, oceans issues – I didn’t quite hear ship building, but I’m sure it’s a high priority for the people of your state and for our nation as well. I know my colleague, Senator Sullivan and I, we’ll be a constant pest on building an Arctic fleet for the future and recapitalization of the many assets that the Coast Guard needs. We thank you for your leadership on many of those issues and look forward to working with you in your capacity as Chair of this committee.

I also look forward to helping to tackle many of the issues that you just mentioned, but before I start, I just want to point out the number of employees that this committee does have oversight over: the 55,000 TSA workers who are working without pay, and the 400 NTSB employees who are currently furloughed, and many others who are involved in the government shutdown. So I hope one of the things that we can get working on is how we get our government back open.

I also too want to thank Chairman Thune and former Ranking Member Nelson for their leadership on this committee. Obviously the hard work that it took to get an FAA bill, to basically get the reauthorization of the Coast Guard legislation, and the important upgrade to TSA security were all landmark pieces of legislation passed by this committee in the last Congress, and I want to congratulate them and thank them for their hard work on that.

I also look forward to working with Senator Thune as the new Subcommittee Chair on Communications and wanted to just mention that I do thank Senator Nelson for his great leadership on the space program and his continued focus on fighting offshore drilling. I certainly look forward to working with our colleague from Texas on his chairmanship of the Space and Aviation Subcommittee as well.

As the Chairman mentioned, we have new members to the committee, and I want to introduce and thank the committee members on our side. I actually think in total, Mr. Chairman, we have a record number of woman serving on a Senate committee, so I’m very proud that we have so many women. Hopefully we’ll put our imprint on what we think the economy of the future looks like and what we need to do.

But I want to welcome Senator Sinema to the committee. Obviously Senator McCain was a long-standing member and former chair of this committee, but Senator Sinema brings a very big consumer advocacy and technology focus to this committee, working on both cyber and technology privacy issues in the House. And we welcome her to the committee.

And I also want to welcome Senator Rosen to the committee who, if the Senate ever needed a true coder – sometimes people call me the “high-tech” senator, but I guarantee you, you are now meeting the true high-tech senator who knows several languages in coding and her strength and knowledge coming to the United States Senate on workforce and STEM issues is going to be a great reward.

I too welcome the new Republican members as well: Senator Scott and Senator Blackburn.

As you said, Mr. Chairman, the committee has had a long record of working together in bipartisan fashion. You mentioned many of those things that we have to tackle:

  • investing in infrastructure,
  • strengthening cyber security,
  • expanding rural broadband,
  • boosting commercial space,
  • continuing our aviation modernization,
  • protecting consumer privacy and data,
  • addressing oceans and fisheries and climate change issues,

. . . all working on America’s competitiveness, as this committee has often done to meet the challenges of an international marketplace.

And we believe that the economy of the future is one that we need to invest in, whether it is science, R&D, or skilling a workforce. But we also believe that we have to protect consumers, particularly in the areas of privacies and product, nor do we want to shy away from those. No matter what the name of the subcommittee is, we’re going to continue to focus on that consumer advocacy. So I look forward to working with all members of the committee on both sides of the aisle on these important issues.

I would be remiss, though, if I did not mention on of my predecessors from this committee: Senator Warren Magnuson. Senator Magnuson, from the state of Washington, served as the chairman of this committee for 23 years. So hard to understate the significant or importance of this. Senator Magnuson, in those 23 years, helped shepherd changes to the 1964 Civil Rights Act Section 2, helped for the first-ever label warning on cigarettes for the dangers of tobacco, helped – with many of our colleagues – introduce the recognition that automobile manufacturers had to report defects, and many, many other things, including the very important work he did with Senator Stevens on the creation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act that really did save the American fishing industry and create it into a multibillion dollar sustainable industry that we have today.

So I thank my colleagues for allowing me make those remarks. Again, Mr. Chairman, I’m excited to work with you as you take the gavel of this committee and look forward to a productive few years here of what we can accomplish for the people of the United States of America.