House rejects digital TV delay; February switchover still stands

| 1/28/2009

If you have an old-fashioned rabbit ear-type TV in your sleeper, you will still need to buy a digital convertor by Feb. 17.

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved the delay on Monday, Jan. 26. However, the bill did not clear the U.S. House of Representatives. A roll-call vote to suspend the rules of the House and pass the bill as amended failed to garner the two-thirds majority needed to pass. The bill failed 258-168.

That leaves the transition to digital television on track for the scheduled date of Feb. 17.

“I am very disappointed the House Republicans blocked the DTV extension today in the House,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman.

“Their vote has wasted valuable time and will cause needless confusion for consumers. A clear majority in Congress supports postponing the transition and providing assistance to the millions of households that are unprepared. I am working with the Obama Administration and congressional leadership to explore all available options.”

The measure passed the Senate unanimously after a compromise was struck between Democrats and Republicans. The compromise allowed television stations to transition before the proposed June deadline, and public safety agencies could take over the vacated airwaves.

According to The Associated Press, that agreement wasn’t enough to get the measure through the House. The majority of the House Republicans voted against the extension, with only 22 Republicans voting for the bill. Democrats, who largely supported the measure in the House, saw 13 Democrats vote against the extension.

The bill could be revived in the House with amendments added if a deal is struck between the Democrats and Republicans. If the House passes an amended version, it would be sent to conference committee where members of the House and Senate would hammer out a compromise bill that both chambers would then have to agree to before Obama could sign any extension into law.

The push to delay the transition by the Obama administration centers on concern that many poor and low-income families may not have received their vouchers for assistance in purchasing the needed equipment, saying the voucher program was not handled efficiently by the previous administration.

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