Rollback Effort Showing Signs of Life

Oct 27, 2003  •  Post A Comment

The congressional effort to repeal new Federal Communications Commission ownership rules, which many said was dead for this year, is showing new signs of life.
More than 200 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including at least nine Republicans, are expected to sign a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and the House GOP leadership seeking a vote on a resolution already passed in the U.S. Senate (55 to 40) to overturn the FCC’s controversial ruling. And backers in the House believe they can reach the 218 signatures needed to force a vote using a “discharge petition.”
The resolution’s prospects have been in doubt largely because House GOP leaders-led by Reps. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Billy Tauzin, R-La.-have been blocking debate and a vote on the issue. At a press briefing last week, however, Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., said he and other House proponents believe they can gather the votes to force a vote if that’s what it takes. “There is very substantial sentiment in the House … to rescind,” Rep. Hinchey said.
Rep. Hinchey said he took the first step toward getting a discharge petition rolling by introducing the requisite House resolution on Oct. 17. “We are on a roll here,” he said.
Added Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., “We have the votes to win this.”
Nonetheless, a spokesman said Speaker Hastert has no intention of bringing the resolution to a vote, in part because the White House has threatened a veto. “Simply to pass a bill that would be vetoed would be counterproductive,” the spokesman said.
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who has been leading the charge on the resolution in the Senate, dismissed White House threats to veto the resolution as “hot air.”
President Bush will sign the resolution legislation, Sen. Dorgan said, because, “He wants people to think he stands with the public interest.”
On a related front last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia announced it has postponed oral arguments on lawsuits challenging the FCC’s media ownership deregulation until Feb. 11. In an order earlier this month, the court said the hearings would be held Jan. 12. It previously had slated the hearings for Nov. 5.