What: All Issues : Government Checks on Corporate Power : Broadcast Media : HR 2669. (Student loans reconciliation) Procedural question on whether to prevent reinstatement of a rule requiring opposing views on controversial issues to receive equal air time/On the motion (2007 senate Roll Call 258)
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HR 2669. (Student loans reconciliation) Procedural question on whether to prevent reinstatement of a rule requiring opposing views on controversial issues to receive equal air time/On the motion
senate Roll Call 258     Jul 19, 2007
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win

This vote was on a procedural motion to allow an amendment by Norm Coleman, R-Minn., that would prevent the Federal Communications Commission from reinstating a long-defunct rule called the "Fairness Doctrine." This rule, which was rescinded in 1987, required that broadcasters give equal air time to opposing viewpoints on controversial subjects, particularly those of a political nature.

Coleman said he wants to ensure that the rule is not reinstated "because all freedoms are at risk when Government monitors and controls the broadcast of ideas.  At the end of the day, there is nothing fair about the fairness doctrine. This issue is not which broadcaster is fair and which is not. The issue is who decides. I believe fairness is what the American public decides is fair, not some Washington politician or bureaucrat. Americans love a fair fight, but there is nothing fair if the intent is to silence debate because a politician disagrees with it," Coleman said.

When Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, Republicans became concerned that there might be attempts to restore the Fairness Doctrine as a way to shut down or otherwise hamstring talk radio, which has grown to be a bastion of conservative thought.

Coleman's amendment was offered to an unrelated bill that would, in essence, take nearly $19 billion in federal subsidies away from student loan lenders and instead redirect that money into new student loans, among other items related to enabling more students to be able to afford college tuitions.

Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., said Coleman's amendment has "nothing to do with the underlying legislation. Young children in this country want this legislation, and this amendment has nothing to do with it."

Arguing that the amendment is not related (or "germane") enough to the underlying bill, Kennedy made a procedural motion that Coleman's amendment be struck down. In some cases, when portions of a bill violate certain congressional rules, the bill can be quickly defeated with these procedural motions unless the Senate votes to waive the rule in question. One of these Senate rules requires that amendments be related to the subject of the bill itself. When Kennedy moved to have the amendment defeated on the grounds that it was not "germane" enough to the underlying bill, Coleman called a vote on waiving that Senate rule for his amendment.

Although 49 senators voted for waiving the rule and 48 voted against, it still didn't have enough votes to be considered passed. This is because this particular type of vote required a three-fifths majority of Congress (60 votes, a large margin in the Senate) to pass. All Republicans present cast a vote for waiving the rules and allowing Coleman's amendment to go forward. All but one Democrat present voted against waiving the rules (Evan Bayh), effectively killing the amendment. The waiver vote was unsuccessful, thus Coleman's amendment that would have prevented reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine was defeated by a procedural motion.

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