House Republicans may roll spectrum bill into JOBS legislation

In a potential end-run around the U.S. Senate, the House Republican leadership is considering attaching its subcommittee-approved broadcast spectrum auction bill to a “must-pass” end-of-the-year legislative package sought by President Obama.

The legislation, called the “Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act,” could be added to a broader legislative package that would extend the payroll tax holiday, a major priority of President Obama. The Hill said the plan was confirmed last week by Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) office.

The Republican version of the bill, already described as having a “poison pill” for the Senate by Democrats, would prevent the FCC from putting access conditions — including net neutrality — on spectrum reclaimed for wireless.

The Republican legislation authorizes the FCC to pay broadcasters to give up spectrum, as well as compensate broadcasters who remain for moving and repacking their spectrum. It also allocates spectrum and finances a broadband emergency communications network.

The Republican legislation, which its sponsors claim could generate as much as $15 billion through auctions of broadcast spectrum, could help offset the cost of extending a payroll tax holiday and federal unemployment benefits. The Republicans, however, added a $3 billion cap to compensate broadcasters for moving and repacking. That’s $2 billion more the Congressional Budget Office said was needed and what was proposed by the Democrats in their legislation.

The Senate version of the spectrum bill, S. 911, passed the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee last June but has not come up for a vote in the full Senate. There was hope that the deficit-reduction supercommittee would include spectrum language in a possible deal before those talks collapsed.