|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:||CONTACT: CHRISTI HARLAN|
|Tuesday, November 9, 1999||202-224-0894|
Sen. Phil Gramm, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, made the following statement today regarding the satellite television bill and the decision of conferees to include a $1.25 billion loan guarantee for satellite television service in rural areas. The Banking Committee has jurisdiction over financial aid to commerce and industry, which includes federal loan guarantees.
"Probably we have all received more telephone calls and more letters on the so-called Satellite Home Viewer Act than any issue we have dealt with in this Congress. This is an issue that flows from the fact that people who have satellite dishes, especially people who live in the country, want to have access to their nearest television station. It is something we all understand. For those of us who live in the country, it is something we want.
"The House of Representatives adopted a very good bill that would allow negotiations between satellites and local television stations with a goal of bringing the local television station into every living room and den in America. This would be a great boon to people who have satellite dishes in rural areas.
"That bill was adopted in the House 422 to 1 on April 27. On May 20, the Senate unanimously adopted a similar bill. These bills are very strongly supported. We are all getting hundreds of telephone calls in support of them. Each of these callers want these bills because they make it possible for people, especially in rural areas, who have satellite dishes, to get the news and the weather from the local station, however far away that may be.
"The problem is, for some unexplainable reason -- at least unexplainable by logic -- in the conference, rather than adopting the House bill or the Senate bill or something in between, the conferees apparently decided that not every problem in the world was solved, and therefore in an effort to try to solve problems which were not part of either bill, they decided to put the American taxpayer on the hook for a $1.25 billion loan guarantee.
"I want to make it clear. This loan guarantee was not part of the Senate bill for which we voted unanimously. It was not part of the House bill that passed 422 to1. It was produced out of whole cloth in conference where the basic idea was there are additional problems that might be dealt with, so as a result, we want to simply add a $1.25 billion loan guarantee.
"When you approach the people who added it, you get the idea this is somehow for small business. But when you read their bill, one of the loans can be as large as $625 million.
"The obvious beneficiaries are two companies, one of which saw its shareholder value go up 4 1/2 times the rate of the growth of the Dow Industrial Average over the last 12 months; the other one saw its shareholder value go up 49 times as fast as Dow did in the last 12 months.
"You might wonder why these two extraordinarily successful businesses with an explosion in their equity value, as measured by the value of common stock, suddenly need the taxpayer to come forth and sign a loan guarantee of $1.25 billion to get to the bottom line.
"I am for the satellite bill. I voted for it in the Senate. I would like to see it passed. I think it is an important piece of legislation. But I am adamantly opposed to Members of the House and the Senate simply deciding to put the taxpayer on the hook for $1.25 billion, with a provision that was in neither the House bill or Senate bill, a provision that cannot be justified by any logic whatsoever. "I want to make it clear if that bill comes to the floor of the Senate and it has that loan guarantee in there obligating the American taxpayer for $1.25 billion, money that was not in the House bill, was not in the Senate bill, I intend to object to its consideration, and it will not become law in this millennium.
"I cannot speak beyond this thousand years. But I can assure you that under the rules of the Senate, it will not become law before the turn of the new millennium, if then.
"One of the authors of this provision, referring to me, said, `I don't think anybody would want to have the reputation of having cost millions of Americans the loss of their network signal, so I don't anticipate problems on either floor.'
"My response to our colleague in the House is: Anticipate problems on the floor of the Senate. And if anyone is endangering the ability of Americans to get the local television signal, it is not me; it is those who have added a $1.25 billion loan guarantee in this bill.
"I know there are going to be a lot of people calling my office and others. Here is my message: If you are for the satellite bill, if you want to be able to get your local television station, don't bother calling me. Call the people who want to add to a conference report this $1.25 billion giveaway which was not voted on in either House of Congress, and say to them: Quit trying to give my money away and give me my local television signal.
"I am not going to let this bill be adopted this year with that $1.25 billion giveaway in it. It is not too late. The conferees can come to their senses and take this provision out. It was not in either bill. It should not have been there to begin with. We can have the satellite bill passed by the end of tomorrow's business. But if it is not taken out, it is not going to be adopted.
"I wanted to come to the floor and make that clear so everybody would know exactly where we are. If you want this bill, insist the $1.25 billion giveaway be taken out of it. We have the ability and we should make it possible for people in the country to get the adjacent cities' TV stations. I am for that. I am a direct beneficiary of it. Many of the people I care about are.
"But the idea we are talking about giving away $1.25 billion in loan guarantees to some of the most well-off companies in America as a rider on this bill is the kind of outrageous legislative action that has to be stopped. If they think because the underlying bill is so popular that everybody is just going to turn the other way and let this $1.25 billion giveaway occur, they are wrong. I do not intend to do that. It is not going to pass the Senate unless they take it out."