Senate DTV Bill Could Pass Today

Passage would shift bill to House

Backers of a Senate bill to move the DTV transition date are hoping to get senators to unanimously approve the bill by Monday afternoon. If so, it would head over the House side, where they are working on their own bill.

A source close to bill sponsor and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA), said they were looking for trying to get a unanimous consent vote by today, though were unsure of the outcome. It only takes one Senator to scuttle such a "red-lining" of the bill.

Rockefeller sought a similar vote on his original bill that would simply have moved the date from Feb. 17 to June 12. But that bill was blocked by at least on Republican, which is all it takes.

Rockefeller has since teamed with ranking Republican Kay Bailey Hutchinson on a compromise bill that deals with other issues, including unclogging the DTV-to-analog converter box backlog and access to reclaimed analog TV spectrum by industry. Most importantly, at least in terms of getting Republican support, the bill is revenue-neutral, meaning the cost of making the move will be underwritten by future FCC spectrum auctions.

The House is preparing Tuesday to mark up its own, similar, bill to move the date, but could conceivably drop that and vote on the Senate version if it does pass muster with all Republicans.

The Obama administration three weeks ago asked Congress to delay the transition date, prompted primarily by a slow-down in converter-box coupon distribution due to the combination of a funding ceiling and an accounting problem that prevented more coupons from being sent out before expired ones were redeemed.