Blocking Telecom Could Become Campaign Issue


South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint says he does not think government should mandate a la carte. He also says the Republicans may be able to make the telecom bill an election issue if Democrats block the Senate Commerce-passed version from a floor vote.

In an interview for C-SPAN's Communicators series. DeMint, a member of the Commerce Committee that resoundingly voted down 20-2 an amendment to the bill essentially mandating cable a la carte, said that he would like a la carte personally. "I would like my cable company to allow me to buy the channels I want because I don't watch many of them and I would like to go in and buy the ones I want. But to go in and mandate that is taking away one of the most important services they have and that is to package the service in a way that they think appeals to customers but also helps them to be profitable."

DeMint says that the bill as it stands, by encouraging new video service providers to enter the market, is the quickest way to get the industry to provide per channel pricing if it is feasible. "We're going to create more cable competition. And if consumers want a la carte, new cable is going to come in and offer it to them," he says.

DeMint said he thought there was a good chance of getting enough Democrat votes--6 or 7--to bring the bill to the floor in September. With threats of a filibuster from at least one senator--which is all it takes--the Republicans will need that many to convince the leadership to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

DeMint pointed to the three Democrats who had voted with the Republicans to pass the bill out of committee 15-7, then suggested there might be some leverage in threatening to make blocking the bill a campaign issue since, for his consumers, the bill is all about lowering cable rates. "If our Democrat colleagues block brining it on the floor for debate, it's just one more thing we can talk about in the area of obstruction.... The ability to move information around is so key to competing in a global economy, I think we can make it a campaign issue because it fits with a lot of other things that have been blocked that are really important to our future."