Ted Cruz has yet to endorse Donald Trump for president, but Donald Trump is endorsing Ted Cruz’s top legislative priority.
Trump announced Wednesday that he supports a GOP-led push to delay a planned end to the U.S. government’s role managing a group that oversees Internet domain names. Cruz (R-Tex.) has been leading the charge to maintain U.S. control over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) as part of a short-term government spending bill that must pass before Sept. 30 to prevent a government shutdown.
“Internet freedom is now at risk with the President’s intent to cede control to international interests, including countries like China and Russia, which have a long track record of trying to impose online censorship,” said Trump National Policy Director Stephen Miller. “Congress needs to act, or Internet freedom will be lost for good, since there will be no way to make it great again once it is lost.”
Cruz, who is widely blamed for causing the government shutdown in 2013, tweeted his thanks to Trump. Whether Cruz will endorse Trump after their bitter primary battle is a continuing drama for Republicans.
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) September 21, 2016
The fight to prevent control of ICANN from transitioning to international stakeholders on Oct. 1 has become a sticking point in negotiations over the stop-gap spending bill in recent weeks. On Thursday, Democrats said Trump’s announcement is now making these negotiations more difficult.
“They want to do… Trump’s ICANN thing now, so the Republicans are refusing to legislate,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. “You should check with [House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)], I’ve talked to her. She’s not going to be agree to this. The president’s not going to agree to it. It’s really unfair to the American people.”
Reid suggested that negotiations over the stop-gap bill could continue deep into next week, bumping up against the Sept. 30 deadline: “We’re in no hurry to go anyplace, okay? We have a lot of time.”
Cruz has refused to say if he will seek to block consideration of the spending bill if his ICANN provision is not included.
“It is my hope that we come together and demonstrate congressional leadership keeping the internet free,” Cruz told reporters on Monday.
Cruz and other Republicans argue that ending the U.S. government’s ICANN stewardship would give potentially risky regimes like Iran and Russia greater control over the Internet and threaten national security. They have pointed to recent instances where Russia has been accused of hacking sensitive political information as evidence the United States must maintain control of the domain name registry.
Democrats insist that Republicans are misinterpreting how the ICANN transition would work. The Obama administration has been working with a group of private stakeholders for two years to ensure a smooth transition. Officials argue that failing to follow through on the plan would undermine U.S. authority.
Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information National Telecommunications Lawrence E. Strickling testified last week at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing that failing to complete the transition could cause chaos.
“Despite the open and transparent two-year process to develop the plan, misperceptions and outright misrepresentations about the plan continue to circulate,” Strickling said. “The potential for serious consequences from extending the contract beyond the time necessary for ICANN to complete implementation is very real.”
Mike DeBonis contributed to this story.