Rules change approved, DTV delay may be debated Wednesday

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10:30 am EST February 4, 2009: Given the House's current schedule, it appears likely that the House Resolution will pass, and debate on the delay, will begin at 11:30 am. Betanews will cover the debate live.

What a vote of the entire US House failed to accomplish a few days ago, the House Rules Committee did Tuesday evening: enabling a delay of the DTV transition date to be debated without spending time in markup.

A resolution presented by the House Rules Committee late Tuesday will enable the House to debate a measure passed by the Senate last week, which would effectively postpone the date US TV broadcasters must shut off their analog signals from February 17 to June 12.

House Resolution 108 was reported on the House floor at 7:20 pm Tuesday evening. According to the official record this evening, no vote on the resolution itself was recorded. If that account is accurate, then the House may vote on the resolution tomorrow -- in which case, a simple majority may enable its passage, rather than the two-thirds majority required to suspend the rules last Wednesday.

Assuming that passes, then conceivably as soon as tomorrow, the House may debate the measure. It'll be quick and lively without any opportunity for amendments, the Rules Committee agreed. Rep. Henry Waxman (D - Calif.) will lead the debate in favor of the bill, with Rep. Joe Barton (R - Texas) -- a predecessor as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee -- will lead the debate against.

During its consideration today, the Rules Committee rejected two amendments to the bill itself: one from Rep. Barton which would have requisitioned another $250 million for the converter box coupon program; and curiously, an amendment which would have tightened an existing stipulation of the bill. As it stands now, broadcasters would be generally enabled to throw their switch any time between February 17 and June 12. The amendment, written and sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden (R - Ore.), would have added to that language an extra clause prohibiting the FCC from taking any action against stations that do throw the switch early.

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