The Senate Commerce Committee today announced that on April 2 it will consider legislation from Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., to overturn the FCC change.
The FCC voted in December to allow for cross-ownership by one company of a broadcast outlet and a newspaper in the same market under certain circumstances. While the new rules would generally allow such acquisitions in top markets and generally disallow them in smaller markets, it grants the FCC the ability to easily make exceptions.
Mr. Dorgan has called the regulatory change "arrogant" and "in disregard of the public interest" and introduced a "resolution of disapproval" co-sponsored by 13 other senators, including presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill, as well as John Kerry, D-Mass., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.
Rarely used authority lets Congress overturn agency decisions within 60 congressional workdays after an agency makes them, but successfully rescinding rules isn't easy. While a favorable committee vote is likely -- a number of the resolution's sponsors are on the committee -- overruling the FCC would require votes by the House and Senate and the president's signature, with the latter being unlikely.
Mr. Dorgan mounted a similar bid to overrule the FCC in 2003 after former FCC Chairman Michael Powell offered a broad rewrite of FCC ownership regulations. The Senate voted to overturn the new regulations, but the House, then under control of Republicans, never voted. The rules were eventually overturned by an appellate court. A House vote is more likely this year, but any congressional action could face a presidential veto.