House Hammers Senate Over Letting FCC Auction Authority Lapse

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) (Image credit: House Energy & Commerce Committee)

The Senate came in for plenty of criticism Friday for its failure to pass House-passed legislation extending the Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auction authority beyond March 9.

That came at a House Communications Subcommittee hearing on spectrum policy.

House Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) had teamed with ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) to co-sponsor the legislation (H.R. 1108) extending authorization to May 19, which passed the House February 19.

She was not pleased with the turn of events. “For reasons unknown to me, certain senators decided to risk U.S. wireless leadership over a date change,” she said in her opening remarks. “A date change. That is unacceptable.”

Pallone echoed that concern in his statement. “Yesterday, for the first time since the agency gained this authority 30 years ago, Congress failed to extend it when the Senate refused to act,” he said. “The House did its work — we unanimously passed a bipartisan bill introduced by me and Chair Rodgers last month to extend the spectrum auction authority to May 19th. Our legislation would have prevented this lapse in authority. I am disappointed that the Senate did not pass the House’s bipartisan bill, but we cannot give up and our work continues.”

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee, joined the chorus: “To say this hearing comes at an unprecedented time is no overstatement. We’re here today under alarming circumstances — during a lapse in the FCC’s auction authority. Something that has never happened before.

“Simply put, this is a failure,” she continued. “To add insult to injury, it was a completely avoidable failure … The consequences of this lapse hold the potential to be severe and far-reaching. It undercuts economic growth and long-term national security.” ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.