News / World

Trump weighs in on internet fight in stopgap spending bill

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, following a House GOP caucus meeting. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, following a House GOP caucus meeting. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump's campaign has inserted itself into already tricky negotiations on a temporary spending bill needed to avert a government shutdown, siding with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in trying to block the government from ceding its limited role in overseeing some aspects of the internet.

"Donald J. Trump is committed to preserving Internet freedom for the American people and citizens all over the world. The U.S. should not turn control of the Internet over to the United Nations and the international community," senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller said in a statement.

Democratic and Republican administrations have both supported a transition of the U.S. Commerce Department's role in governing the internet's domain name addressing systems, transferring responsibility to such stakeholders as technical experts, businesses and other governments.

The temporary spending bill is the top item on the congressional agenda before lawmakers leave Washington for the fall campaign. It also provides more than $1 billion in long-delayed funding to battle the Zika virus. Lawmakers hope negotiations on the measure will be wrapped up this week, though the pace of talks has been slow and Wednesday produced no visible breakthroughs.

Many experts say Cruz and his allies are greatly overstating the Commerce Department's potential influence over internet content and spinning exaggerations and conspiracy theories. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is pushing to use the stopgap spending bill to at least delay the transition. Democratic negotiators like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada are strongly opposed to that effort.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., came out Wednesday in favour of adding money to the measure to address catastrophic flooding in Louisiana.

President Barack Obama has heeded calls by Louisiana's governor and congressional delegation and requested $2.6 billion to help Louisiana rebuild from last month's devastating floods. Ryan didn't volunteer how much money he supports. But the Republican speaker is opposed to a key demand of Democratic negotiators: money to help Flint, Michigan, repair its lead-tainted water system.

The flood aid question is one of a handful of unresolved issues involving the stopgap funding bill, which would prevent a shutdown next week and keep the government running through Dec. 9.

Meanwhile, the Senate rejected a resolution to block the Obama administration from selling more than $1 billion worth of American-made weapons to Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. Lawmakers backing the measure, including Rand Paul, R-Ky., are critical of the kingdom's role in Yemen's civil war, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., opposed the resolution, which was killed by a 71-27 vote.

"I think it's important to the United States to maintain as good a relationship with Saudi Arabia as possible," McConnell said Tuesday.

The other big item on the Capitol Hill pre-election to-do list is an override vote on President Barack Obama's anticipated veto of legislation that would allow the families of 9-11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia. Ryan predicted that "the votes are there for the override." The vote is expected next week.

The Zika-fighting portion of the pre-election spending bill is nearly complete. Republicans have dropped language to block affiliates of Planned Parenthood in Puerto Rico from receiving funding for prevention and treatment of Zika in the territory. Zika, which can cause grave birth defects, is often transmitted by sexual contact, and women are being advised to delay getting pregnant if they live in an area where Zika is widespread.

Negotiators on the measure hope a deal might be reached Wednesday, but negotiators have blown through several earlier deadlines.