CONGRESS APPROVES NATIONAL 'DO NOT CALL'

FTC Gets Funding for Telemarketer Blocking List

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The Federal Trade Commission last night won its fight to get immediate authority and money to implement its "do not call" list as House leaders, reacting to protests from consumer groups and Senators, dropped a demand it be done in two separate steps.

Final action on an omnibus appropriations bill containing both provisions was passed by both houses late today.

Legislative procedures
The do-not-call measure, while widely

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popular in Congress, had gotten caught earlier in the week in the intricacies of Senate legislative procedure and a fight between the Senate and House about using appropriations bills to give the FTC new legal authority. For a while last week that battle appeared to threaten the list's implementation this year, riling consumer groups and some senators.

The fight began when some House leaders gave $16 million the FTC requested to fund the list in the appropriations bill, but decided to pass separate legislation giving the FTC authority to actually implement it. While that legislation passed 418 to 7 in the House, it created potential problems in the Senate.

Angered senators
The omnibus appropriations bill funds the government for the rest of the fiscal year and has to be passed by Congress for the government to operate, but Senate procedures would have allowed any senator to temporarily block a vote on the separate FTC legislation. The prospect that the "hold" would be used to delay for months the list's implementation drew the anger of consumer groups including the AARP and senators including Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C.

The measure's approval now means the next steps are up to the FTC and the courts.

In separate lawsuits, the Direct Marketing Association and the American Teleservices Association are arguing the list could have drastic effects and are challenging the FTC's authority to implement the list and its constitutionality.

Four months to set up
The FTC has asked Congress for quick action so it could implement the list before the Sept. 30, which is the end of the fiscal year. The FTC said that about four months after Congress approves money for the list, it would begin letting consumers sign up and marketers would have to start buying and using the list several months later.

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