FCC Process Reform Bills Advance in House

Vote on markup split along party lines

Democrats were powerless to stop two bills that would reform the Federal Communications Commission's procedures and merger reviews from advancing in the GOP-controlled House. In a party line vote taken Wednesday, the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee voted 14-9 to send the legislation to the full chamber.

Among the changes proposed, the bills would require the FCC to conduct cost-benefit analyses prior to rulemaking, set shot clocks for all its procedures, and release the full text of rules prior to votes.

"The legislation asks the FCC to go through a process similar to what we've gone through in crafting this bill," said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who sponsored the bills and, as chairman of the subcommittee, held two hearings leading up to Wednesday's markup.

While the Republican members of the subcommittee argued the bills would increase openness, transparency and accountability at the FCC, Democratss argued the bills would do just the opposite, and would weaken the commission.

"These reforms would lead to an agency that is less effective, agile, and transparent," said Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., who offered one of several Democratic amendments that failed in the markup.

Though time is running out to get any legislation made into law this year, the bills at least have a fighting chance to pass the GOP-controlled House. The Senate side is a different story, because Democrats control the upper chamber. So far, no hearing on the bills has been scheduled.

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