Tuesday, August 10, 2010

$302 Million Broadband Stimulus Cut on House Floor 08/10/2010 San Francisco – A $302 million funding cut to the broadband stimulus program approved by the Senate last week remains part of the $26 billion package of emergency funding for the states which the U.S. House is now debating. 

The bill’s primary purpose is to support recession impacted states with federal appropriations to keep public school teachers, firefighters, and police officers employed, and to extend the Recovery Act’s subsidies for the so-called FMAP (Federal Medical Assistance Percentage) state Medicaid payment program.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-08) called the House back from vacation to convene in formal session today in order to win swift passage of the fiscal legislation which sponsors point to as being revenue neutral over the next 10 years.  Part of the way in which such zero impact on federal budgets will be achieved is found in the $302 cut to the Recovery Act’s broadband stimulus program, and in similar cuts (“rescissions”) to other stimulus appropriations.  Pelosi’s Democratic majority is expected to quickly pass the legislation today or tomorrow. 

As we reported last week, and despite some confusion about the bill’s proposed broadband cut by other congressional reporting services, the legislation designated as H.R. 1586  was amended to include the broadband cut on August 5th by a 61 – 39 Senate vote.  The House Rules Committee last night voted 8 - 3 in favor of floor procedures for today's House action, and published the first publicly available online version of the bill as amended by the Senate.

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) was the lead sponsor in the Senate of the final compromise package, designated as Senate Amendment 4575 (summary), which won the filibuster-proof vote by 61 Senators to allow the bill back to the House.  In a telephone interview yesterday afternoon, Senator Murray’s press office confirmed for that the $302 million broadband program cut is contained in the bill now on the House floor. 

The $302 million cut is only to that part of the broadband stimulus program managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce.  Although previous proposals, authored separately by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Rep. Dave Obey (D-WI-07), had recommended a total cut of $602 million to the broadband stimulus funds jointly administered by NTIA and Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the Department of Agriculture, only the cut to NTIA's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) was and carried back to the House.
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