The full Senate voted 69-30 Thursday to defeat an attempt by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to move the DTV transition hard date from April 2009 to April 2008.
A similar amendment had already gone down to defeat in the Commerce Committee markup on the DTV transition bill. That is the date when analog broadcasting will cease and digital will take over as the new national standard.
An amendment that would have cut the subsidy for digital-to-analog tuners from $3 billion to $1 billion, introduced by Nevada Republican John Ensign, was withdrawn before a vote.
The Senate is preparing to vote on a huge budget reauthorization package either Thursday night or Friday morning. The package includes the DTV transition bill that sets the hard date and establishes the subsidy and a consumer education program, with money for various communications related areas including e911 and emergency communications.
The House has yet to vote on its DTV bill. After it does, the differences between the two bills will have to be worked out in conference, including the disparity between the $3 billion converter subsidy in the Senate bill and the $990 million subsidy in the House version.
The Senate version would send $40 coupons to all the households that need the converters (up to two per household), while the House version is a first-come, first-served plan that takes several steps and is meant to return more money to the treasury for deficit reduction.