Brownback Bill Status Uncertain - Broadcasting & Cable

Brownback Bill Status Uncertain

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At press time there was still not word from the Democrats on whether there was any opposition to unanimous consent approval of a Senate indecency fine bill introduced by Sam Brownback (R-Kan.).

Republicans had signed off on the manuever Thursday night, but Democrats had yet to get back to Majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who tried to fast-rack the bill. The Majority leader can call for approval by unanimous consent and, if no Senator opposes it, the bill is considered passed though it must go through the formality of being brought up on the floor, often in the rapid wrap-up of business at the end of the day's session.

Brownback's staffers are not optimistic about the unanimous consent option, since only one holdout Senator can block it, but plan B is for Frist to schedule a Senate floor vote on the bill, bypassing the Senate Commerce Committee, where the chairman has indicated he wants to give content self-regulation a chance first. A Brownback aide has said that Frist promised to make a good faith effort to get the floor vote.

Frist has been under pressure from religious groups to move some kind of bill boosting indecency fines. The House already passed such a bill last year boosting the fines to a maximum of $500,000 per incident. Brownback's would only up them to $325,000 per, but it is also free of other elements in the House bill that--fining performers, putting TV station licenses in play--that make that bill problematic.

If the Brownback bill does pass, it must still be reconciled with the House bill. Frist is said to have tried to schedule a Senate floor vote on the House version, which would have obviated the need to reconcile different bills in Congress, but that did not pan out.

Both House and Senate bills are byproducts of the Janet Jackson half-time reveal.

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