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No Markup Scheduled

Cruz, Thune, GOP at Impasse With Cantwell Over ACP Funding

The Senate Commerce Committee is at an impasse over funding the FCC’s affordable connectivity program, ranking member Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told us Tuesday. Chair Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Democrats haven't found enough willing Republicans and the soonest the committee could even consider a markup is the first week of June.

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I don’t think that the current approach that the chair is taking is going to get us there,” Thune told us. “So there would have to be some negotiation. It's hard to say.”

I am open to an agreement that embodies significant reforms to stop the waste and abuse,” Cruz said. “We’re not there yet, and I would say right now we’re not even that close, but I’m certainly open to that possibility.”

Cantwell last week pulled a second scheduled markup of the bill, citing scheduling complications. Republicans cited tensions over language for some 50 amendments, including a proposal from Thune that would have blocked college protesters “supporting Hamas” from receiving ACP subsidies (see 2405160066).

The committee is “still working through making sure we have support for ACP,” Cantwell told us. “I think on the Republican side, there aren’t a lot of people who have made this a high priority, so we want to make sure that people are on board.” The committee will “have to do it when we come back” from the chamber’s Monday to May 31 Memorial Day break.

Cruz was asked about the level of Republican determination on the amendments. “We’ll assess those at the time,” he said.

Despite the deadlock, Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., told us Tuesday he remains optimistic. Lujan led a failed, bipartisan bid with Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, to attach $6 billion in stopgap funding for the program and $3.08 billion for the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program to the FAA reauthorization package (see 2405090052).

I’ve seen magic happen on a moment’s notice in this body,” Lujan said. “If members are willing to work on a piece of policy, it gets done. So I’m not losing my optimistic side on getting ACP done. We just have to have the will of everyone that believes this program should get funded in the short-term. All we have to do is step forward and make sure that it happens.”

Lujan said he will continue exploring all vehicles, including heading directly to the Senate floor. “The chair will be able to share with you more what the schedule is for the committee,” he said. “I’m still pushing for all consideration, whether it’s through committee” or on the floor. The proposed framework is a strong, bipartisan bill that “would be able to earn the support from colleagues if given the opportunity,” he said.

Cruz ahead of last week’s scheduled markup filed a substitute amendment to Cantwell’s spectrum bill (S. 4207). He’s seeking to combat the ACP’s “inflationary effects” on broadband prices. He also wants to narrow eligibility requirements, eliminate program duplication and repeal Biden administration policies that he says harm broadband affordability.

Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., told us he’s “disappointed” the markup timeline was extended again. “We’ve got a lot of good Republican support,” he said. Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, told us they’re unaware of firm plans for a committee markup.