A bill introduced...

DeMint, Thune, Pence & Walden Introduce Bill to Stop Fairness Doctrine-"Broadcaster Freedom Act would keep radio airwaves free from government censorship and suppression

In an effort to prevent Democrats from suppressing the right to free speech for talk radio and other broadcasters, today Congressman Mike Pence (R-Indiana), chairman of the House Republican Conference, Congressman Greg Walden (R-Oregon), Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, and Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, introduced the Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2009 (S. 34 in the Senate, bill number pending in the House). The bill would prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, which would suppress free speech by requiring the government to monitor political views and decide what constitutes fair political discourse.

“The time has come to do away with the Fairness Doctrine once and for all,” said Congressman Pence. “Over the past few months, some of the most powerful Democrats in Congress have made their intentions to restore this Depression-era regulation clear. However, bringing back the Fairness Doctrine would amount to government control over political views expressed on the public airwaves. It is dangerous to suggest that the government should be in the business of rationing free speech.

“During my years in radio and television, I developed a great respect for a free and independent press. Since being in Congress, I have been the recipient of praise and criticism from broadcast media, but it has not changed my fundamental belief that a free and independent press must be vigorously defended by those who love liberty. I urge this Congress to send the Fairness Doctrine to the ash heap of broadcast history where it belongs,” said Congressman Pence.

Senator DeMint added, “Since the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, talk radio has grown rapidly due to the power of the free market. We should not allow our government to suppress free speech by reversing this decision and regulating the marketplace of ideas.

“Democrats want to impose an unfair doctrine that destroys talk radio and silences the voices of millions of Americans who disagree with their vision for America. But the First Amendment of our Constitution guarantees the right of free speech, regardless of political affiliation, and this legislation will protect this sacred right,” said Senator DeMint.

Senator Thune said, “One of America’s greatest pillars of democracy and freedom is our Constitutional guarantee to exercise free speech. For over 200 years, the First Amendment has allowed Americans to voice opinions, thoughts and questions of their choosing without the fear of Government reprisal. This guarantee is now threatened by some liberal ideologues who are frustrated with the free flow of ideas on talk radio. The bill we have introduced will stop them in their tracks and help protect the vibrant marketplace of ideas we have today in our media. I advise every American to be hesitant when government officials offer to regulate the media in the name of ‘fairness.’ Our support for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech means that we must support the rights granted to even those with whom we disagree. Simply put, giving power to a few to impose ‘fairness’ in the media is a recipe for an Orwellian disaster.”

Congressman Walden, who owned and operated radio stations for more than 21 years and is part of a small town broadcast family that dates back to the 1930s, stated, “The founders would spin in their graves at the thought of the government censoring speech on many of today’s radio and television stations. Yet that’s just what some Democratic leaders seem to be after. Whether as a throwback to the old Fairness Doctrine or under a less controversial guise, any effort to exert government control over speech on the airwaves is an insult to the principles behind the First Amendment.”

The Fairness Doctrine was implemented by the FCC in 1949 in an attempt to ensure balanced and fair coverage of controversial subject matter by broadcasters. In 1985, the FCC determined that the Fairness Doctrine was no longer necessary due to the emergence of a “multiplicity of voices in the marketplace.” The FCC was also of the view that the Fairness Doctrine may have violated the First Amendment. In a 1987 case, the courts declared that the doctrine was not mandated by Congress and the FCC did not have to continue to enforce it. Twice, Congress has passed legislation restoring the Fairness Doctrine, but Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush vetoed the bills.

The DeMint-Thune Senate bill, S. 34, has 24 cosponsors including Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Christopher Bond (R-Missouri), Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) John Ensign (R-Nevada), Michael Enzi (R-Wyoming), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), Mel Martinez (R-Florida), Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), David Vitter (R-Louisiana), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi).

The Pence-Walden bill in the House already has over 100 cosponsors including Representatives John Boehner (R-Ohio), Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), John Carter (R-Texas), David Dreier (R-California), Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Kevin McCarthy (R-California), Thaddeus McCotter (R-Michigan), Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Washington), Tom Price (R-Georgia), Adam Putnam (R-Florida), Pete Sessions (R-Texas), and Fred Upton (R-Michigan)."

House Democrats Pass New Rules to Curb Republican Influence
-"House Republicans say they are ready to work with Democrats for “genuine solutions” to America’s problems. But Republicans will find it more difficult to advance their solutions, now that Democrats have passed new rules curbing Republican clout.

The rule changes passed Tuesday, on the first day of the 111th Congress, are “designed to silence” Republicans, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said.

The new rules repeal term limits for committee chairman, consolidate power in the hands of a few, and attempt to silence Republican input on key policy debates, in addition to making a mockery of the Democratic leaders' promises of presiding over an open Congress,” Blunt said in a news release.

Republicans are particularly upset about limits on sending bills back to committee for amendments.

According to Blunt, Republicans have used the motion to recommit “as one of the very few tools left to the Minority to improve legislation before its passage.”

Democrats complain that motions to recommit are gimmicks used by Republicans to delay or kill legislation and to score political points at the expense of Democrats.

The new rules allow the full House to reconsider a bill without delay.

House Republican leader John Boehner (Ohio) complained that the new rules imposed by Democrats will take Congress “back to the old days of backroom deals and undemocratic one-party rule.”

The new rules package “silences the voices of tens of millions of Americans by further shutting down open debate on the House floor and taking away the Minority’s right to offer substantive policy alternatives on behalf of the millions of Americans they represent,” Boehner said.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Republican leaders urged Democrats not to shut down open debate on the House floor by refusing to allow all lawmakers the opportunity to offer “substantive alternatives to important legislation.”

According to Boehner, the rule changes will have direct consequences for the American people: “Among other things, they’ll make it harder to cut taxes. Under existing rules, if Democrats bring a bill to the floor that includes a tax increase, Republicans could motion to send the bill back to committee and strike the tax hike, but the Majority’s rules package takes this option away.”

“With promises of ‘change’ and a new way of doing business in Washington, does the Democratic Majority really want to silence the voices of tens of millions of Americans during the very first hours of the new Congress?” Boehner asked in an Internet posting before the new rules package was passed.

So much for President-elect Barack Obama’s calls for bipartisanship, said Rep. David Dreier of California, the ranking Republican on the House Rules Committee.

The rule changes will create "the most closed Congress in history," the Washington Times quoted Drier as saying.

Democrats now hold a 257-178 majority in the House. The 111th Congress adopted the rules changes by a 242-181 vote."


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