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Lawmakers Ponder New Oversight Chairman, Russian Compounds and Texas-less SXSW

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. // Alex Brandon/AP

The House Republican Steering Committee announced its choice for a new chairman of the House Oversight and Governmental Affairs Committee: Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.

Gowdy previously served as chairman of the House select committee on the Benghazi attacks in Libya and would replace the former chair, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who steps down in this month.

About Those Russian Compounds

After reports that President Donald Trump planned to return two diplomatic compounds seized as part of sanctions for Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections, Sen. Chris Van Hollen proposed an amendment to block his efforts. Tacked on to a bill that would sanction Iran, Van Hollen proposed the facilities would not be returned until the attorney general, Treasury and State secretaries certify to Congress that Russians “no longer conducting cyber-enabled activities” that pose a significant threat to U.S. national or economic security.

Bill to Block Exploiting Kids Online Passes Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the PROTECT Our Children Act, which would reauthorize a nationwide network of task forces to prevent online crimes against children. The program offers training, technical assistance and other guidance to state and local law enforcement agencies.

SXSW Outside Texas?

A pair of senators asked the head of South By Southwest music (and tech and many other things) festival to consider moving outside of its home in Austin, Texas. Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., asked SXSW's Roland Swenson to move the festival until Texas repeals or courts overturn the state’s “anti-immigrant” SB4 law.

Texans don’t leave Texas so easily. “We agree with the senators that the law stands diametrically opposed to the spirit of SXSW and respect their call to take action,” the organizers said in a statement. “Austin is our home and an integral part of who we are. We will stay here and continue to make our event inclusive while fighting for the rights of all.

Coming Up

Next week, lawmakers start diving into the Defense Department’s authorization bill, which includes the department’s cyber and tech programs, starting Monday evening.

Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee explores the security of wireless devices and the House oversight committee discusses Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act scorecards. A Senate Foreign Affairs subcommittee will look into state-sponsored cyber threats.

Thursday, House Science, Space and Technology lawmakers hear about what the government learned from the WannaCry ransomware update from former federal Chief Information Security Officer Greg Touhill and representatives from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Symantec and Kryptos Logic.

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