WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens said on Thursday he was still unable to muster enough votes for his telecommunications bill, which could die if Republicans lose power in the November elections.
The bill would make it easier for telephone companies like AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications to get licenses to offer television service to compete with cable companies. It also would address a myriad of other issues but consumer groups oppose it because it does not guarantee “Net neutrality.”
“I still think we’re a few votes short,” Stevens, an Alaska Republican, told reporters after addressing the Progress & Freedom Foundation think tank.
Senate Republican leaders have told Stevens he must have 60 votes in hand before they will bring the measure to the floor for debate. That would enable leaders to cut off debate and avoid the bill being talked to death, known as filibustering.
But Stevens has been unable to get 60 supporters mainly because of a fight over the issue known as Net neutrality. His bill does not include language sought by consumer groups to prevent Internet providers from charging content companies more for guaranteed access and quality of service.
The providers have denied they would block access to public Internet content, but may want to offer private services like movie Internet downloads.
Stevens said he would not try to attach the bill to must-pass annual spending bills, often a way for lawmakers to get legislation through Congress. Lawmakers are due to recess at the end of next week so they can campaign for the November elections and then return afterward.
Many political analysts have forecast that the Democrats could take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the November elections but the party is not expected to win back the Senate.
“I’ve been around through a couple of sea changes, nothing happens after a sea change,” Stevens said, referring to the time lawmakers will work right after the elections. Still, he also predicted the Republicans would keep control of Congress.
The House has already approved a narrower version of the Senate legislation. Any differences would have to be worked out and approved by both chambers before it could become law.
Fuente: Reuters, Jeremy Pelofsky