The House on Monday approved a bill to require the FCC to take another look at its rulemaking procedures. The legislation, approved by voice vote, is similar to a reform bill passed by the House last Congress that never made its way through the upper chamber.
Over the objections of House Democrats, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to send to the floor a bill that would transform how the Federal Communications Commission conducts its business. Democrats mounted a vigorous debate during today’s markup ending in a 31-16 vote with only one Democrat, Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah, siding with the GOP.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology and a former broadcaster, isn’t giving up on his mission to reform the FCC. In a press briefing Wednesday morning, Walden seemed more determined than ever to pass legislation that would bring major changes to the independent agency that wields enormous sway over the $3 trillion communications business.
Democrats were powerless to stop two bills that would reform the FCC’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.
The Republican duo of Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.) and Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.) unveiled legislation to change the way the FCC does business. Walden and other Republicans have stepped up their criticism of the FCC following the agency’s adoption of net-neutrality rules, which the GOP argues are unnecessary and an overreach of the agency’s authority.
The FCC should establish “shot clocks” so that parties know how quickly they can expect action in certain proceedings and should provide a schedule for when reports will be released. It should establish its own internal procedures for reviewing and deliberating on pending orders. And agencies entrusted with reviewing mergers, acquisitions and other transactions should focus on the merits of the transaction, and any conditions imposed on transactions should be tailored to transaction-specific harms already within the FCC’s authority to consider.