Our friend Ben Weingarten, editor-at-large at RealClearInvestigations, senior contributor to The Federalist, and columnist at Newsweek, has been tracking the federal government’s
response to Judge Terry A. Doughty’s ruling in the landmark Missouri v. Biden case freezing federal government-led speech policing. (You can subscribe to Ben Weingarten’s Substack through this link it is well worth reading every time he posts.)
It will probably surprise no CHQ reader that there is a significant dichotomy between the response of the Executive Branch, led by Democrat Joe Biden, and the (somewhat) conservative Republican-led House of Representatives.
Despite the magnitude of the judge’s decision, observed Mr. Weingarten, it’s far from a guarantor of our First Amendment rights. That much was made clear just 10 days later when the Biden administration obtained a temporary administrative stay at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
While Judge Doughty found that the government violated the First Amendment on an unprecedented scale, two of three presiding judges at least preliminarily bought the government’s argument that preventing it from inducing social media companies to censor unauthorized facts and opinions, under the guise of combating “mis-, dis-, and mal-information” (MDM), caused the feds “irreparable harm.”
Editor’s Note: The Biden administration’s dogged opposition in this First Amendment case is a marked contrast to the Left’s strategy of “sue and settle” favorably when the plaintiff is someone they like or a member of their political coalition. See environmental and voting “rights” cases for examples.
Mr. Weingarten posits this case is headed for the Supreme Court and points out that even if the plaintiffs win there, having a few judges standing between the government and free speech is not good enough. What is needed, says Ben Weingarten, is robust legislation that reinforces good jurisprudence.
Fortunately, the Republican-led House of Representatives has taken some solid, but only preliminary, steps to passing the robust legislation Mr. Weingarten believes is necessary to protect our First Amendment rights.
In a recent column for The Epoch Times, Ben documented how the House of Representatives has begun to dismantle the Biden censorship regime:
Congress is currently taking up the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It contains a provision (pdf) prohibiting the Pentagon from funding any organizations that “advise the censorship or blacklisting of news sources based on subjective criteria or political biases,” under the banner of “‘fact checking’ or otherwise removing ‘misinformation.’” The House-passed provision explicitly bars the Defense Department from underwriting NewsGuard, the Global Disinformation Index, and Graphika Technologies (pdf), the latter two having been implicated as players in the “Censorship-Industrial Complex.”
Congress is also targeting federal government-led speech policing in appropriations bills.
At the time of this writing, the GOP-led House has drafted funding bills containing language prohibiting government-led censorship efforts at the Executive Office of the President (pdf), Justice Department and FBI (pdf), Defense Department (pdf), State Department (pdf), and Homeland Security Department (pdf), among myriad other agencies.
The above list is a good start, but Mr. Weingarten observes one notable appropriations bill currently lacking in anti-censorship language is that funding the Health and Human Services Department (HHS).
This is a significant omission, noted Mr. Weingarten, since much of the government-led Chinese coronavirus-related censorship emanated from the HHS, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and related agencies and offices previously enjoined in Missouri v. Biden for their conduct. We will see if House Republicans ultimately amend the bill, or if this oversight persists.
The way we read the tea leaves these bills have a good chance of passing the House, but Mr. Weingarten is not optimistic about their chances in the Senate, and even if they pass the Senate would Joe Biden sign them?
Given that Joe Biden sits atop the federal government-led censorship apparatus, a veto is likely suggests Ben Weingarten.
Congress should defund and dismantle the censorship apparatus that Missouri v. Biden, the Twitter Files, and its own oversight efforts have helped to unmask. Not a single penny of taxpayer dollars should be used to silence ourselves, wrote Ben Weingarten and we agree.
The Capitol Switchboard is (202-224-3121), call today and tell your Senators and Representative that you demand Congress act to preserve and protect the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment by defunding and prohibiting future censorship regimes.
Judge Terry A. Doughty
Health and Human Services Department (HHS) censorship