Spectrum auctions tied to payroll tax cut


Democrats in Washington have been pushing for an extension of the payroll tax reduction that benefitted average citizens during 2011, providing the same relief during 2012. Republicans are all for tax breaks, but on this one, they are attaching many of their own pet projects. Included are the bill containing incentive auctions of television spectrum, including a measure to hamstring the FCC’s effort to enforce network neutrality, and another controversial measure involving the Keystone XL pipeline.

The spectrum bill was popular with broadcasters, given that in an ideal world there wouldn’t be anybody breathing down their necks in search of spectrum. It seeks to assure that spectrum surrendering would be purely voluntary, covers moving expenses, and instructs that spectrum treaties with Canada and Mexico be dealt with. Democrats had overall objections to the Republican-authored bill, but there only specific broadcast problem was that perhaps too much cash had been allocated to cover broadcast moving expense.

The network neutrality portion of the spectrum bill may prove its undoing – Henry Waxman (D-CA) said at the markup that the two parties had agreed to leave this “poison pill” out, but Marsha  Blackburn inserted it as an amendment with her party’s support. Waxman predicted its death in the Senate.

The pipeline portion of the new bill is also a problem, and has already earned the total package a veto threat from President Barack Obama.

RBR-TVBR observation: Watching Capitol Hill at the end of the year is like reading a “Where’s Waldo” book – a particular bill can show up anywhere, or something entirely new can just appear. This bill appears to have roadblocks, but that doesn’t mean they won’t find yet another vehicle upon which to hitch the spectrum bill.