Stevens: Telecom bill must wait until after election
Mired in controversy surrounding network neutrality, major telecommunications-reform legislation will not be considered at least until the U.S. Senate reconvenes after the November elections, according to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).
As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Stevens was able to lead the passage of a broad telecom bill through his committee earlier this year. However, while the bill emerged from the committee, a deadlocked vote on network neutrality portended a struggle on the Senate floor.
Before Congress recessed in August, Stevens said he planned to get the 60 votes of support needed to ensure a filibuster effort could not undermine the bill. However, the legislation has yet to be scheduled for debate on the Senate floor.
“It obviously can’t be done before we go into recess, but I do hope we can find some way before we leave to schedule it so it will be part of the plan when we come back into session, probably on Nov. 13,” Stevens said in a speech last week before the Progress & Freedom Foundation.
Indeed, Congress is expected to recess so members can return to their re-election campaigns as early as tomorrow, said Yucel Ors, legislative director for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO).
“At this time, we don’t see the telecom bill moving,” Ors said. “After the elections, they’ll know exactly what the playing field is.”
Whether the bill moves during the lame-duck session may depend largely on the election results, according to multiple Beltway sources. If the Republican Party maintains its majority in the Senate, the bill is more likely to pass with its current language. If the Democratic Party gains a majority in the Senate, there is a greater chance that the bill will have to be reconsidered when the new Congress convenes in February 2007.