Why the Senate Bill to Fund ACP and ‘Rip & Replace’ Is Stuck

Bipartisanship is falling apart at the Senate Commerce Committee, according to The Hill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) ripped Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-TX) for fighting “petty partisan culture wars” over the Spectrum and National Security Act, which was supposed to receive a markup in committee on Tuesday.

S-4207 would restore the FCC’s spectrum auction authority through September 30, 2029, Inside Towers reported. It would lend $10 billion of those auction proceeds to the FCC in FY2024 funding for the expired ACP and fully pay the more than $3 billion shortfall for Rip & Replace. 

Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) says she had to postpone the committee vote for the fourth time because Cruz insisted on modifications that would have “gutted” bipartisan amendments that had been negotiated with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS). Cantwell said the “hard-won compromise” on the ACP to help low-income families afford high-speed internet had been “months in the making” and would have provided a “balanced approach to spectrum management.”

She asserted it would have expanded high-speed connectivity for lower income families while “protecting our defense by ensuring our military has telecommunications they need” by preserving spectrum that the Defense Department doesn’t want to auction off. She urged Cruz and other Republicans on the committee to “get back to negotiating.” 

A Senate Democratic aide said Cruz had filed 38 amendments and modified amendments to the bill, as well as 14 amendments or modifications to bipartisan reforms Wicker proposed for the ACP, notes The Hill.

A Republican source said those figures were misleading and that Cantwell and her staff knew for “months” what changes they wanted to make to the bill. The GOP source said Cruz was forced to propose modifications to existing amendments because Cantwell didn’t want to allow Republicans to offer new amendments to the bill, despite rewriting it several times.

Cruz has taken shots at Democrats, according to The Hill. The Texas senator on Tuesday ripped Cantwell for moving a bill that he says would have given “free internet to illegal aliens, millions to antisemitic colleges, and billions to mega-corporations with no strings attached. In a shameless blame-game, Democrats accidentally revealed what they truly think about taxpayers — that they are dupes,” he fumed in a statement. “Pathetic and offensive.”

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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