News

Senate Fails to Produce Veto-Proof Majority

9/16/2003 8:54 AM Eastern

One-dozen Senate Republicans abandoned President Bush by voting Tuesday to
help pass a resolution designed to gut new broadcast-ownership rules adopted in
June by the Federal Communications Commission under embattled GOP chairman
Michael Powell.

The resolution passed 55-40, which meant supporters fell 12 votes short of
producing the necessary two-thirds majority to override a presidential veto -- a
deficit supporters of the FCC rules were eager to point out after their
defeat.

"This was always going to pass. The important thing to note is that there are
not enough votes here to override a presidential veto," a broadcast source
said.

A broadcast lobbyist said before the vote that he expected the resolution to
attract up to 70 votes because many senators would consider opposing the White
House a "free vote" knowing that the House was unlikely to take up the same
resolution.

The White House issued its first veto threat in July. But Sens. Byron Dorgan
(D-N.D.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) have both said they doubted Bush would cast
his first veto to block repeal of media-ownership rules.

Whether a resolution repealing the FCC's rules ever reaches President Bush's
desk is problematic because House leaders are reportedly opposed to staging a
similar vote. During debate in July on a spending bill, the House rejected an
amendment that would have rolled back the FCC's decision to allow TV stations
and newspapers to combine in their local markets for the first time since
1975.

"It's time for Congress to move on. I will vigorously resist any attempts to
revisit these issues this year," said House Energy and Commerce Committee
chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.), one of Powell's most ardent defenders in
Congress.

Powell -- who, in recent weeks, has been mounting a more public defense of
the rules -- issued a statement after the Senate vote repeating his position
that if Congress plans to repeal the rules, it should provide the FCC with clear
guidance on new rules that would be acceptable.

"This resolution, if passed by the House and signed by the president, would
only muddy the media regulatory waters. It would bring no clarity to media
regulation, only chaos," Powell said.

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