Changes coming on Capitol Hill?


Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) is under increasing pressure from fellow Republicans to resign and Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) is due back on Capitol Hill next week, after suffering a brain hemorrhage last December. What are the implications for broadcasters as Congress returns from a holiday break?

Democrats have generally been holding back on any criticism of Sen. Craig, letting the Republican Party twist in the wind, following the news that the conservative Senator had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in Minnesota after he allegedly solicited an undercover male cop for sex. Senate GOP leaders have announced plans for an investigation. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Norm Coleman (R-MN) have publicly called for Craig to resign, as have some conservative radio hosts and Internet bloggers. If Craig does resign, it will not change the party split in the Senate, where the Democrats hold a slim majority. Idaho Governor Butch Otter, a Republican, would name a successor to fill out the remaining months of Craig’s term. Democrats are salivating at the possibility of picking up a seat next year in a state that has long been staunchly Republican, but that won’t be an easy task even after this scandal.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tim Johnson made his first public speaking appearance this week in South Dakota, walking and talking with only slight impairment from the brain hemorrhage he suffered last December. The Senate reconvenes on Tuesday, September 4th, and that looks to be the last day that Johnson will be absent. He plans to be back in his office and on the Senate floor come Wednesday.

RBR observation: Neither Craig nor Johnson is on the Senate Commerce Committee, which has the most direct impact on legislation affecting broadcasters. Both are, however, on the Appropriations Committee, which has oversight of spending by the FCC and every other government agency. Neither, though, has a reputation for being active in any issues affecting broadcasters. Johnson is also on the Budget Committee, so he has a double-barreled impact on how the federal government collects and spends money.