WASHINGTON — One day after a stinging defeat, broadcasting lobbyists and key House Republicans have regrouped, wasting no time trying to shore up support for rules allowing further media concentration.
With the help of News Corp. and Disney/ABC lobbyists, Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) has obtained 60 signatures of House Republicans determined to keep the new Federal Communication Commission rules in place.
The lawmakers pledged to sustain a presidential veto in a letter to Bush still circulating among House offices and obtained by Daily Variety. Overriding a presidential veto requires a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate. FCC supporters would need 146 votes in the House to maintain it.
“There seems to be growing support to sustain it,” said Cannon spokeswoman Meghan Riding. “We’re gaining more and more signatures each day.”
The House voted Wednesday to overturn the new FCC rule allowing companies to purchase more TV stations. White House aides said they would advise the president to veto the bill, the first veto of the Bush administration.
In order to circumvent strong opposition among House GOP leaders, Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.) attached the rollback language to a popular spending bill, which passed the House overwhelmingly Wednesday in a 400 to 21 vote.
Now momentum is building in the Senate to take similar action. If successful, House GOP leaders pledged to strip out the offending language when the House and Senate hashes out their differences on the bill.
If that effort fails, a White House veto would be the only way to keep the relaxed FCC rules intact.
One day after the House vote, the FCC’s strongest supporters on Capitol Hill remained optimistic about their chances.
“We’re confident that given the possibility of a presidential veto, that the Obey amendment will be stripped in conference,” said Ken Johnson, spokesman for Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), who chairs the Commerce panel. “This (petition) is to provide the president a little assurance.”
The letter included signatures from several influential House Republicans including Tauzin, Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.). No Democrats had signed the letter, as of late Thurs.
Doubting the GOP
Democrats determined to overturn a least a portion of the new regs dismissed claims that it will be easy to strip away the rollback language. If Republicans had the votes to sustain a veto, they argued, the letter would already contain 146 signatures.
“It’s usually not this difficult for Republicans to whip their members into shape,” one Democrat remarked.
Besides, they said, the president is unlikely to expend the political capital necessary to ignore action by both Houses of Congress, as well as the public backlash against the new ownership rules.
“Why would the president use his first veto ever on this?” one Democrat mused. “If he does so he’ll have to face the public and tell them why he’s supporting the corporate giants over mom-and-pop local TV stations.”