Washington-Should the Democrats take back the House of Representatives in November, the ranking member of the Telecommunications Subcommittee may opt not to reclaim his chairman's gavel.
Speaking to the nonprofit Media Institute, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), a 24-year Congressman and former chairman of that subcommittee, toyed with the possibility of chairing the House Committee on Resources. That panel's ranking member, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), has expressed hopes of leading the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Markey would be next in line.
"A full committee or a subcommittee?" asked Markey, who added that he had not made up his mind. "Which one would you take?"
Laughing, Markey added: "I'm only six weeks from becoming a chairman again."
Markey has indicated interest in both positions, said press secretary David Moulton.
Moulton cautioned that the Democrats must win the majority of seats in the next election for Markey to hold a chairmanship. Democratic leaders could also reorganize House assignments, as the Republicans did when they won control of the House.
While chairman of the telecommunications subcommittee, Markey shepherded the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992, which was meant to promote competition in the cable industry and bolster consumer protection.
During his tenure as leader, telecom legislation received bipartisan support, Markey said.
"The minority counsel was in the room from the first day of drafting" the technology laws and regulations, he said. These "were very complex issues that required that the smallest voice was heard from the beginning, because the smallest voice could become the [dominant] voice at the end."
In his speech to the Media Institute, Markey said he would support measures to protect users of new technologies in the next session of Congress.
"I would like to see a privacy bill of rights," he said, referring to recent debates about the regulation of Internet services. "Government must provide a floor, a minimum [set of] rights."
He said Congress should regulate pornography, gambling and the sale of firearms via the Web, applying laws for more traditional media, such as copyright guards, to the Internet.
"People want technologies that make it possible to for people to protect their families," Markey contended. "We have to make sure that protections are placed on the books."
Markey said Internet-service providers should have access to cable systems and other infrastructure, noting that allowing competitors to share existing facilities would "maintain competition."
He also said he would press Congress to insure that foreign governments cannot invest heavily in U.S. telecom companies and that access fees are not placed on Internet use.
States News Service