The speaker of the House made it clear to me and more than forty of my colleagues yesterday that a bill by Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.) to outlaw the “Fairness Doctrine” (which a liberal administration could use to silence Rush Limbaugh, other radio talk show hosts and much of the new alternative media) would not see the light of day in Congress during ’08. In ruling out a vote on Pence’s proposed Broadcaster’s Freedom Act, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-CA.) also signaled her strong support for revival of the “Fairness Doctrine” — which would require radio station owners to provide equal time to radio commentary when it is requested.
Experts say that the “Fairness Doctrine,” which was ended under the Reagan Administration, would put a major burden on small radio stations in providing equal time to Rush Limbaugh and other conservative broadcasters, who are a potent political force. Rather than engage in the costly practice of providing that time, the experts conclude, many stations would simply not carry Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and other talk show hosts who are likely to generate demands for equal time.
At a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor yesterday, I asked Pelosi if Pence failed to get the required signatures on a discharge petition to get his anti-Fairness Doctrine bill out of committee, would she permit the Pence measure to get a floor vote this year.
“No,” the Speaker replied, without hesitation. She added that “the interest in my caucus is the reverse” and that New York Democratic Rep. “Louise Slaughter has been active behind this [revival of the Fairness Doctrine] for a while now.”
Pelosi pointed out that, after it returns from its Fourth of July recess, the House will only meet for another three weeks in July and three weeks in the fall. There are a lot of bills it has to deal with before adjournment, she said, such as FISA and an energy bill.
“So I don’t see it [the Pence bill] coming to the floor,” Pelosi said.
“Do you personally support revival of the ‘Fairness Doctrine?’” I asked.
“Yes,” the speaker replied, without hesitation
Pelosi to Senate: Filibuster FISA
Although Speaker Pelosi would not specifically call for Sen. Barack Obama to lead a filibuster against Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act legislation in the Senate, she did send a strong signal that she was positive about the talk of filibuster against the surveillance measure by Democratic Sens. Christopher Dodd (CT.) and Russ Feingold (Wisc.)
Recalling that there were many issues before the Senate that she felt deserved but did not get a filibuster — on the war in Iraq and expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) that the Administration vetoed, for example — Pelosi voiced her opinion that “a filibuster focuses on a very important issue” and that the importance of FISA “justifies that.”
The Speaker pointed out that “if the Senate has the ability to filibuster, and “I think there is a great appetite in the public for such a debate on [FISA] to take place. And I think it would be healthy and wholesome.”
Of her own unusual vote for the surveillance bill coupled with an admonition to colleagues that they were not obliged to do the same, Pelosi was pressed by nationally syndicated columnist Robert Novak.
“It’s better than the underlying FISA law,” Pelosi told Novak, “It’s better than what the Senate had sent us. It’s not good enough, as far as I’m concerned. But I did for it because, again, we have our choices to make and I viewed my role as saving the world, the House, the Congress, from the Senate bill, and the Protect America Act, the Administration’s bill. But it isn’;t the bill I would have written.”
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