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Wyden Puts 'Hold' On Telecom Bill

As promised, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) put a hold on the video franchise/telecom reform bill that just passed the Senate Commerce Committee.

Wyden is not a committee member, but he is a fan of strong network neutrality language that was ultimately not adopted in the bill. without that language, he had threatened, he would try to block the bill.

The hold means that the bill could not be passed on unanimous consent, which is without a Senate floor vote and debate, but that is because to do so all 100 Senators would have to approve of it. By not approving of it, Wyden automatically takes that option off the table.

But the hold, which is a courtesy rather than a rule, anyway, does not prevent the leadership from scheduling a floor vote on the bill. But what might prevent that floor time is not having the 60 votes to block the filibuster Wyden will likely employ.

The leadership has indicated to Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens that he will need to line up those 60 votes. With floor vote time at a premium as the days in the session dwindle, the thinking is: Why spend two weeks debating if the end result will be a filibuster that kills the bill.

Committee member Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) told Stevens he might not have the 60 votes he needs. The bill includes a laundry list of issues, so Stevens is said to be amenable to paring it back some if that will help get it to the floor.

Kerry and others argue that it is an addition--strong network neutrality language--rather than subtraction that it will need to gain sufficient support.

But Stevens has said net neutrality will be a poison pill, and has heard as much from the House side, whose bill also does not contain language expressly preventing discrimination in the provision of Internet access, though both bills include guidelines the FCC must follow in monitoring and punishing potential abuses.