House GOP Republicans, including the offices of firebrand Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), told the Washington Examiner that Republicans would support using the government’s annual spending bill as a way to remove funding for the Department of Homeland Security’s new disinformation board, which the GOP sees as a vessel to censor conservative speech.
Some Republicans even said they would be willing to shut down the government if Democrats resist.
“We should use the power of the purse to stop this disinformation craziness that the Biden administration is doing,” Republican Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) told the Washington Examiner.
“But we should use that power for other things too, like securing the border, because the Democrats need us for certain things like keeping the government open, and we should use that leverage to get what we want,” Bishop said.
Bishop said that congressional Republicans should be “far more aggressive” about using the government spending package negotiations to accomplish their policy goals, such as eliminating the disinformation board, and encouraged other Republicans to shut down the government if need be.
Homeland Security announced the creation of the board last week to coordinate the federal government’s activities related to countering disinformation, with an immediate focus on foreign threats like unauthorized migration to the United States and the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
The board will be led by Nina Jankowicz, a former disinformation fellow at the Wilson Center and adviser to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, who has a history of controversial and misleading statements.
The conception of disinformation has become a controversial and polarizing matter. Liberals say disinformation, meaning false information spread deliberately and covertly, is a threat to democracy. Conservatives, though, increasingly say that the threat of disinformation is wrongly used as a cover to censor them.
Republicans are concerned that the board could be used to restrict free speech and are willing to take aggressive measures to shut it down.
“We’re open to removing the funding for this board in any way necessary, including the appropriations and government funding process, because this board is tyrannical,” said Ben Stout, Boebert’s communications director. “We’re willing to go to the mattresses over this.”
Boebert earlier this week introduced a bill, the Protecting Free Speech Act, to terminate the disinformation board and prohibit any federal funds from being used to carry out the activities of any other entity that is substantially similar.
The legislation has quickly garnered the support of over 60 House GOP members, including almost all of the House Republican leadership, including Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and Judiciary Committee ranking member Jim Jordan (R-OH).
Despite the strong GOP support, the measure is unlikely to move to the floor, given the Democratic majority in Congress.
This is why some Republicans are open to using the federal government funding process to eliminate funding for the disinformation board instead.
“To avoid a government shutdown, Democrats will have to allow this disinformation board to have its wings clipped,” a senior House Republican aide told the Washington Examiner.
“Democrats won’t want to be known for shutting down the government over a controversial and politically unpopular disinformation board with the midterms around the corner. Republicans will have a field day attacking them relentlessly on this,” the aide added.
Republicans are also concerned about a February bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security saying the federal government plans to work with public and private sector partners, including Big Tech companies, to reduce the “proliferation of false or misleading narratives, which sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions.”
Homeland Security defines disinformation as information “deliberately created to mislead, harm, or manipulate a person, social group, organization, or country,” while misinformation is “false, but not created or shared with the intention of causing harm.”