Legislators push back against spectrum plank in debt deal


At least three members of Congress do not believe that the high-wire act that is the showdown on the debt ceiling is the proper place to be considering the complex ins-and-outs of United States spectrum policy – and at least one of them said if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed puts it in such a deal would never survive in the House.

In the Senate, John McCain (R-AZ) was able to both go after Reid and pull his anti-broadcaster saber out of its scabbard, something we’ve rarely seen since he left the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee a few years ago.

McCain labeled Reid’s inclusion of spectrum auction money in his bill as a sham, saying that any time anybody in Congress wants money for something they call for a spectrum auction. As for broadcasters, McCain objects to any plan that would allow them to share in the proceeds of an auction, pointing out that broadcasters do not own the spectrum and that taxpayers should not have to share the auction proceeds with them.

In the House, the leaders of both parties of the Communications Subcommittee came out against the inclusion of a spectrum element in a debt bill. Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) said there was no chance such a thing would ever get through the House, and Ranking Member Anna Eshoo (D-CA) said that the issues involved were far to complicated to just toss into a bill with no consideration other than the dollar figure Reid thinks he can attach to it.

There is also no reason to trust Reid’s number in the first place. He counted it as $15B against the deficit. The CBO thinks it’ll be more along the lines of $6.5B.

It goes without saying that even if Reid is able to get $15B out of a spectrum auction, it is a mere drop in the bucket in comparison to the overall total of dollars being pushed around the debt ceiling poker table.

RBR-TVBR observation: We said it the other day, and we’ll say it again: Spectrum policy is and has always been a difficult matter. We’re glad that both the key Republican and Democrat in the key House Communications Subcommittee get that.

Meanwhile, we note that we haven’t had to deal much with the Senator from Arizona in these virtual pages the past few years, and we are reminded why back in the day, from time to time we found occasion to refer to him as a McCain in the neck.