| Frist gaining momentum as Internet Gambling Bill now in Conference
September 15, 2006 (EOG.com) – According to CongressDailyAM, one of the publications staff, members, and lobbyists read every morning on Capitol Hill, negotiations on the DoD Authorization conference report are still underway.
The leaders of the two committees failed to wrap up conference negotiations on the defense authorization bill Thursday, as members had initially intended. House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Subcommittee Chairman Curt Weldon, R-Pa., said members still have to complete work on a handful of issues and would not file the conference report until next week.
Since members go out of town on weekends to return to their districts & campaign, it seems to me that failure to complete the report Thursday night means it will now be completed no earlier than Monday night, and probably maybe even a little later than that. Staff will probably work through the weekend on it, but they are not making the high-profile decisions on outstanding items that members can make. Staff might be negotiating the gambling language, but only members can ultimately decide whether it gets inserted or not. Members won't be back in DC until Monday evening -- that's the general trend, anyhow.
So, what's the impact for Internet gambling?
Well, every day that goes by that the conference report remains "open" is another day that Frist & Co will have time to try to insert the Leach bill. In that sense, delay is a bad thing. It seems clear to me that the DoD Authorization has sufficient momentum to pass, and that it will get a very brief amount of floor time needed to get through. The only question is what goes into the bill, if anything.
Here are some things you need to know about Conference reports:
1.) Conference reports are not amendable, and that there is no comment period or whatever. The conferees and leadership decide what to put in them, whether it is germane or not, and put it in. Then they file the report and can have a vote on it within hours of filing.
2.) Conference reports CAN be held just like normal bills. I'll repeat that for emphasis. Holds CAN be lodged on these conference reports. That said, Senators are usually much more reluctant to hold a conference report than they are a regular bill -- all the more so when the main part of that report deals with the military, pay raises for troops, and national security. On top of that, Leadership is MUCH more prone to use tools to overcome holds on major conference reports, meaning that even if people put holds down, leadership in the Senate could probably beat those holds by filing for and attaining 60 votes on a cloture petition. Cloture is time consuming, but necessary in these cases.
3.) People are probably not going to have the chance to preview the language... it will be negotiated until the dying end between a select few staffers and members, plus well connected lobbyists. You can try to call the relevant Senators/Congressman's offices to ask, but I'll bet a ton you won't get anywhere with such requests... still, from a pressure standpoint it wouldn't be a bad idea to blitz those offices with requests.
4.) I spoke with staff for two of the west coast members who are conferees, and they have indicated to me that efforts are alive and well to attach not only the Internet gambling provisions, but also an abortion bill as well (has to do with transporting minors across state lines) to the DoD Authorization conference report. Apparently the word among staff is that the Armed Services Committees on both sides of the Hill are 100% objecting to including any extraneous subject matter. Now, how much of that is posturing and how much is a real objection is anyone's guess. Plus, the Armed Services guys could EASILY get rolled by leadership and get forced to include either or both of those extraneous bills. Nonetheless, those opposing the bill should be heartened to hear this.
5.) Contacts suggested to me that the conference report will likely be wrapped up Monday or Tuesday, and voted on in the House 24 hours after that. At about that time, the content of the report would become publicly available on the House Rules Committee's website. That will be our first look at the language, unless Berge or ChrisAJ or some other insider succeeds in getting it before then. The House is expected to pass the bill no matter what it includes, since the House is rather authoritarian in its procedural rules, and there are no holds or other mechanisms to block things from moving. From there, the bill would move to the Senate, where a number of things could happen. I will not speculate on what would happen in the Senate at this point, as I don't think we know enough to make an intelligent guess.
6.) The substance of what I now understand to be Frist's proposal would be a significant setback for online gambling, as I think it would kill IGMPay transfers, and may also block Neteller and FirePay type devices. Not to be alarmist, but you all need to be very concerned about the impact that proposal would have on the poker economy -- if I understand it correctly. More details to come, and obviously I reserve final judgment until I see the language that gets included, IF any language is in fact attacked.
Look for some news updates later today and through the weekend -- but the rubber will really meet the road during the 36 hour period between Monday at noon and Tuesday night.
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