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Floor Debate

Senator Thune’s Floor Speech on Amendment 662

Mr. President, 2 weeks ago, 87 Members of the Senate voted to uphold our first amendment rights by supporting a statutory prohibition on the so-called fairness doctrine. The amendment was offered by Senator DeMint and was accepted as part of the DC voting rights bill which is currently awaiting consideration by the House of Representatives. I am concerned that once the House considers this bill, whenever that might occur, and the Senate and House versions are conferenced together, this provision will no longer be a part of the final DC voting rights bill.

I will say I am hopeful that the DeMint amendment is retained in the final version of the DC Voting Rights Act, but I am fearful it will be stripped out behind closed doors when the conference committee gets underway.

So I filed an amendment to the Omnibus appropriations bill that would prohibit the FCC from using any funds to reinstate the fairness doctrine during the current fiscal year.

If this amendment is accepted to the omnibus bill, then the 87 Senators who supported this prohibition last week will have assurances that the fairness doctrine will not be reinstated for the remainder of this year regardless of whether the DeMint amendment remains part of the DC Voting Rights Act.

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This has been a good debate, not just about DC voting rights but constitutional rights in our country, and if we are going to go by our own opinions and good intentions or are we going to follow the Constitution. Clearly, a lot of us wish to give fair representation to everyone who lives in the District of Columbia. But our oath of office is not to our good intentions, it is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

The Constitution is very clear that Congressmen and Senators are allocated only to States. The District of Columbia was set up as a neutral entity, certainly where people will live and work associated with the business of the Federal Government, but there is nothing in the Constitution that would give a Congressman or Senators to this Federal District of Columbia. So we are talking about a constitutional issue.

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