A top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee voiced frustration Wednesday with reports that House GOP leaders are considering including spectrum legislation in a broader bill that might include an extension of a payroll tax holiday and other measures.
Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., the ranking member on the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, told Tech Daily Dose that it's important for the committee to continue its work on the issue even if it ends up getting attached to another bill.
The subcommittee approved spectrum legislation crafted by the panel's chairman, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., on a largely party-line vote last week. Eshoo and other Democrats opposed the bill because of concerns about provisions related to unlicensed spectrum and the governance structure for a national broadband network for public safety.
"It is my understanding that the Republican leadership is considering placing this in an omnibus," Eshoo said. "But this is without the benefit of a full committee markup. These are complex issues. Congress does not do spectrum legislation but for maybe once a decade, if that," she added."I'd like to see the fullness of the effort optimized."
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, confirmed that GOP leaders are considering including spectrum in the payroll tax measure, which the House may take up next week. Spectrum legislation has been floated several times this year as a possible offset to pay for various measures Congress has considered.
Walden said last week that his spectrum measure, which is focused on freeing up more spectrum for mobile broadband and helping to build a public safety broadband network, could raise as much as $15 billion for the U.S. Treasury through spectrum auctions.
Walden said last week that he expected the full committee would take up his measure this week but that appears to be on hold until a decision is made on whether his bill will be attached to the payroll tax measure. Eshoo said her staff and Walden's aides are continuing to talk about ways to resolve their differences on his spectrum bill.
Meanwhile, Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. said Tuesday that his staff may begin discussions with the House on ways to resolve differences between his spectrum bill, approved in June, and Walden's proposal.
"Were moving to get together with the House folks," Rockefeller said, though he didn't say when such talks would take place.