Spectrum auctions riding ping pong ball on Capitol Hill


Republicans in the House of Representatives passed an extension of a payroll tax break benefitting average citizens to the tune of about $1K in 2012, as Democrats have been seeking to do. But they larded it up with goodies for their party, along with spectrum auction legislation, sending it to an uncertain fate on the Senate side of the Capitol, not to mention the White House.

Democrats in the House, particularly Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) warned that the spectrum bill all by itself contained planks that would not survive in the Democratically-held Senate. And the bill passed by the House goes much farther than that in making itself unpalatable to Democratic senators.

Meanwhile, some Republicans in the Senate believe the payroll tax relief extension is bad policy, a stance given voice to by Bob Corker (R-TN).

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-TN) is vowing to block action on the House bill until some sort of omnibus funding bill is passed that will keep the government open. Funding is about to expire once again.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski issued a statement saying he was glad to see the House bill giving his agency the ability to conduct spectrum auctions, but objecting to the inclusion of language that would take away its ability to enforce network neutrality principals.

As for the White House, it has threatened a veto should the bill as passed by the House somehow make it through the Senate.

RBR-TVBR observation: This is how Washington works. A bill that is highly technical, with billions of dollars and even the public safety at stake, suddenly is attached to utterly unrelated legislation and is careening randomly around Capitol Hill. Chances are the House payroll measure will go nowhere – but that doesn’t mean the spectrum bill won’t attach itself to some other unrelated piece of legislation.

Why is it that the seemingly least likely scenario is that this important issue might be considered by itself, on its own merits, in a deliberate and thoughtful manner? Instead, it’s just a bargaining chip in the deficit debate, buried in a bill cluster and headed who knows where.