Rockefeller Fast-Tracks DTV Bill

Senate could vote on bill as early as today

Armed with a letter from the Barack Obama transition team supporting his approach to the DTV-delay bill, Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA) is pushing for a Senate vote on his bill as early as today (Jan. 16).

The Rockefeller bill confines itself to only moving the date from Feb. 17 to June 12 and moving the coupon box program's end date from March 31 to July 31.  It does not raise any related issues including boosting funding for the DTV-to-analog converter boxes, expediting mailing of the coupons or analog TV spectrum won by Verizon and others in spectrum auctions, all of which are addressed in a House draft of a DTV date-moving bill.

Rockefeller is going to try to take the bill straight to the floor, and hopes he can get it approved on unanimous consent.  "Senator Rockefeller is working with the leadership to get action on the bill as soon as today," said an aide.  "My understanding is they are running the hotline on the bill right now in the Senate."  Hotlined means every Senator is being contacted to see if they have any objections. In a perfect world, said the source, that could happen as quickly as Friday, with the bill then sent over to the House.

The Obama transition team sent a letter to Rockefeller and Henry Waxman (D-CA), who introduced the House bill with the additional elements, urging passage of the Rockefeller bill.

The Rockefeller camp saw that as a clear signal to the House to sign onto the more simple bill.  "That's how we would like people to interpret that letter," said the aide.

If the Senate voted on the bill Friday and the House acted quickly, the legislation could be enrolled and over to the Obama White House as early as next Wednesday, making it one of the first bills the new President would sign.

But the House could choose to hold a hearing on the Senate bill, given its differences from Waxman's version. If so, a DTV delay bill would likely not get approved, if it were approved at all, until late next week or early the following.