The nations overwhelming response this month to the federal Do Not Call lists promise of telemarketing relief has given Congress added impetus to finally act on another unasked-for nuisance: spam.
Spam is not a partisan issue, but it is nevertheless embroiled in politics. In past years, turf battles between the House judiciary and commerce committees ruined chances for a bill to come to a vote on the floor. In addition, disagreements within the committees threaten to slow the momentum for passing a measure this year.
At present, two bills are competing—one authored by Rep. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and the other authored by Reps. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., and Gene Green, D-Texas. The Burr bill has the support of both committee chairmen, but the majority of the commerce committee members support the Wilson/Green bill.
"This is a watershed moment for Congress," Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, said Wednesday. "We may finally be in a position to respond to our constituents plea for help."
Some issues in the spam debate, such as whether to ban unsolicited commercial e-mail unless a consumer affirmatively "opts in" to receive it, have been settled for now. Few lawmakers are willing to support an opt-in requirement as it is highly unpopular throughout industry. Both the Burr and the Wilson/Green bills contain the less controversial "opt-out" requirement.