“This bill would have passed today were it not for two words from the senator from Kentucky – I object. That is the only reason this bill has not passed today.” Those words from Texas Senator Ted Cruz after Senator Rand Paul sank a bipartisan attempt to pass the AM For Every Vehicle Act through the Senate by unanimous consent on Tuesday afternoon.
Sen. Paul is seeking to add his own modification to the bill to end electric vehicle subsidies under the American Vehicle Tax Credit, in lieu of mandating AM radio remain a standard feature in all vehicles manufactured and sold in the US as a safety feature.
On October 31, Sen. Paul, called into a Kentucky AM station to say, “I’ve always been a big fan of AM radio. It’s really been a good point for open and clear debate, and allows for a longer discussion format than you get sometimes on television.” He also introduced the idea of pulling subsidies during this interview, but in no way mentioned that he would stand between the AM Act and its passage into law.
Unanimous consent is a situation where no member present objects to a proposal. It’s a way for Congress to expedite proceedings by agreeing to waive certain procedural steps. The idea is that if no one objects, the proposal is deemed to have the consent of the entire body. If even one objection is raised, the Senate must follow its standard procedures for debating and voting on the matter.
However disappointing to broadcasters, the outcome is unsurprising. Sen. Cruz described the chance of a unanimous vote as unlikely in an address to the National Religious Broadcasters President’s Council in October.
With optimism still in bloom for the Act, NAB President Curtis LeGeyt said, “NAB applauds Sens. Cruz, [Massachusetts’ Ed] Markey and [New Mexico’s Ben Ray] Luján for going to the floor of the United States Senate today to seek final passage of the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act, again demonstrating their leadership and steadfast commitment to advancing this critical legislation.”
“This bipartisan collaboration reflects a shared dedication to ensuring that AM radio remains a dependable and accessible medium for all. We thank Senators Markey and Cruz for their continued leadership and support of AM radio listeners and look forward to continue working with them to pass this critical legislation.”
The bill now has two remaining paths forward in the Senate: either being attached to non-related, must-pass legislation or being scheduled for a formal floor vote.
For radio to get its wish in time for Christmas, both the Senate and House of Representatives would have until end of day on December 14 to pass the act before dismissing for the holidays. If that doesn’t happen in time, the next opportunity would be after both houses of Congress reconvene on January 9.
The AM For Every Vehicle Act currently has the sponsorship support of 44 Senators across party lines. Given it passage through the Senate, the Act still must go through the House of Representatives. Besides the bill’s sponsor, New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer, the House’s version of the AM Act currently has 191 cosponsors, with more saying they would vote in favor of the bill. A simple majority would be 218.
The AM For Every Vehicle Act had been awaiting action on the floor since late July. The bipartisan act, introduced by Sens. Cruz and Markey, has also united broadcasters and garnered more than 400,000 emails, letters, and social media posts from the public.