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Senate Launches Telecom Bill Markup

The Senate Commerce Committee began its markup of Senate Telecommunications Legislation Thursday with Chairman Ted Stevens pointing out that the bill was an amalgam of amendments and whole bills submitted from both sides of the aisle.

His point was that he has been trying hard to get something approaching a bipartisan bill that could pass the committee and make it to the floor.

Stevens and his House counterpart, Joe Barton, chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee, have pledged to get a bill passed in this session, though their bills remain quite different.

While the Barton bill, which has already passed the full House, confines itself to video franchising, the Stevens bill has come to resemble more like an omnibus telecom rewrite, a point made by Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who had serious problems with its size and scope.

The Stevens base bill, which at one point reportedly had over 275 proposed amendments on top of that, already includes sections on money for first-responder communications, unlicensed devices in the broadcast spectrum, broadcast flag digital-TV content protection and more.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) praised Stevens for his efforts to tray and craft a bill that would pass.

When that vote will come is another matter.

Stevens had said that if the Senate had to be around for floor votes Friday the committee would reconvene then, but there will be no floor votes and some travel schedules already set, so the process begins again at 10 p.m. Tuesday.
The initial 275 amendments--possibly a record for the committee--have been whittled down, some withdrawn, some merged with other amendments, but even at 100 it stands to be a marathon day-or-more.