Skip to main content

Super Committee Fails; Incentive Auctions Will Go It Alone

The deficit-reduction super committee has failed to come
up with a plan to reduce the deficit by $1.2 billion, triggering defense and
other cuts and leaving the spectrum incentive auction plan to go it alone in a
stand-alone bill if it is to become the law of the land.

The plan for auction of broadcast spectrum for wireless
and the billions it would have supplied for deficit reduction had been on the
table as part of the committee negotiations, but the committee said it could
not come to an agreement on a package of measures.

"After months of hard work and intense
deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be
possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the
committee's deadline," said the committee, which included familiar faces
to the communications industry including House Energy & Commerce Committee
Chairman Fred Upton (R-Tex.) and Senate Communications Subcommittee Chairman
John Kerry (D-Mass.).

"Despite our inability to bridge the committee's
significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the
nation's fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the
next generation to solve. We remain hopeful that Congress can build on this
committee's work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works
for the American people and our economy," the committee said in a

The significant difference apparently continued to be over making tax increases, which Republicans on the committee have pledged to fight, part of the solution.

"We are deeply disappointed that we have been unable
to come to a bipartisan deficit reduction agreement, but as we approach the
uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving, we want to express our appreciation
to every member of this committee, each of whom came into the process committed
to achieving a solution that has eluded many groups before us. Most
importantly, we want to thank the American people for sharing thoughts and
ideas and for providing support and good will as we worked to accomplish this
difficult task," which they did not accomplish.

A Senate bill to authorize the auctions is awaiting a
floor vote, while a different House version has yet to get a vote in committee,
though there is word a markup could come as early as Dec. 1.  Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W. VA), who sponsored the Senate bill, pledged Monday to push for stand-alone passage before year's end.

The FCC has been
pushing for the legislation to get moving on its spectrum reclamation plan to
free up more spectrum for wireless broadband, while broadcasters have been
arguing that any voluntary auction must protect existing broadcasters' coverage
area and signal quality.

CTIA: The Wireless Industry was quick to push for
stand-alone spectrum auction legislation. "The wireless industry's need for
additional spectrum is well documented," said CTIA VP, government affairs,
Jot Carpenter. "If the supercommittee process doesn't provide a path to
addressing our need for more spectrum, then there are other vehicles available
that will ensure our members can access unused or underutilized spectrum and meet
consumers' demand for wireless broadband services. We look forward to working
with Congress to ensure the U.S. wireless industry remains the world's leader."

"WCAI is disappointed that the super committee did not
propose spectrum legislation to spur additional mobile broadband
deployment," said Wireless Communications Association International President
Fred Campbell. "Failing to adopt spectrum legislation this year would be a
significant blow to mobile broadband providers. It would be an even bigger blow
to mobile broadband consumers, jobs, and American competitiveness. WCAI urges
Congress to complete its work on spectrum legislation this year."

Commenting on the news of the committee's failure, President Barack Obama said that his plan, which he sent the committee in September, would have achieved the committee's goal of cutting the deficit by $1.2 billion--that plan included the spectrum auctions. But he said Republicans continued to be the main stumbling block.

The President said he would veto any attempt to get out of automatic cuts triggered by failure of the committee to come to an agreement. "There will be no easy off-ramps to this one," he said. "We need to keep the pressure up for compromise." But he also pointed out that Congress could still come up with a package for deficit reduction before the automatic cuts trigger in 201--which pushes any pain past the 2012 elections.

"I am troubled by the super committee's failure to make good on their promise to deliver a deficit-reduction plan for America," said Rockefeller in a statement. "Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison and I recommended that the super committee include S.911, the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act in their proposal. This bill would not only reduce the federal deficit by at least $6.5 billion but also provide first responders with a life-saving communications network and spur billions of dollars in economic investment. Winning ideas like S.911 cannot keep falling victim to this partisan stubbornness. I will continue to pursue all avenues to get S.911 enacted this year."

"Republicans would rather keep the temporary Bush tax breaks for billionaires instead of preserving Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security for Grandma and Grandpa," said Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), former chair of the House Communications Subcommittee.