Republicans on the House Communications Subcommittee believe the FCC must be made transparent and accountable. Democrats believe the Republicans are singling it out for special treatment and a future of constant litigation. The Republicans have the most votes, so the two bills are on their way to the full committee.
The 3309 bill on general FCC reform, the one with which Democrats had the more numerous and serious objections, passed by a vote of 14-9.
The 3310 bill on streamlining reporting requirements passed on voice vote.
All parties agree that the rules prohibiting meetings between commissioners need to be modified, but an amendment offered by Subcommittee Ranking Member Anna Eshoo (D-CA), which would have moved just that portion of the legislation forward, was shot down.
Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) said “In the end, the legislation we look at today is about increasing transparency and accountability at one agency that should be at the forefront of open government. Transparency and predictability in the regulatory process should be the rule, not the exception.”
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) commented, “ Even the FCC has recognized the need to make government processes more transparent. The Commission recently tightened the constraints on when parties can lobby the FCC without informing the public of what was said—now the public can better watch what private parties are doing at the Commission. But now it’s time for the FCC to make itself more transparent and accountable. Today’s bills would require the FCC to live up to the same standards that it demands of the public. Expecting transparency and accountability from Congress and from federal agencies should be a nonpartisan issue. I’m glad to support these bills so that America’s small businesses, entrepreneurs, and job creators can actually see what their government is doing.”
Eshoo disagreed, stating, ““Simply put, the legislation before us today will not accomplish these goals. After seeking out a broad range of stakeholders, including consumer groups, academics and those associated with the bipartisan Administrative Conference, the overwhelming consensus – and consensus is an important word that is forgotten around here – is that these reforms would lead to an agency that is less effective, agile, and transparent.”
Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the parent Energy and Commerce Committee, offered the counter viewpoint, saying the bills would continually force the FCC into court, and added that some think it would take years for the court to simply sort out what the bill actually means. He added that it would diminish the FCC’s ability to scrutinize deals in the public interest, and would subject things like cost-benefit analysis to court scrutiny.
A Waxman amendment that would require the FCC to post companies that are targets of consumer complaints was one of a handful that did not run into a Republican stone wall, and he and Walden agreed to work on it prior to taking the bills up in full committee.
A summary of the bills was provided by Republican committee leaders.