What Happens to AM Radio After August Recess?

NRB | August 31, 2023 | Advocacy

This fall could be a busy time for broadcasters on Capitol Hill.

Earlier this year, with leading automakers poised to remove AM radio capabilities from new electric vehicle lines, lawmakers in the House and Senate worked across the political aisle to introduce a pair of proposals (H.R.3413 and S.1669) that would preserve AM radio in the auto dash.

Even with Congress in recess, the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act has continued to benefit from the issue’s momentum. In recent days, the legislation has attracted several new cosponsors, most recently adding Reps. James Comer (R-Ky.), Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.), Mike McCaul (R-Texas.) and Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) Joni Ernst (R-Iowa.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Chris Murphy Chris (D-Conn.), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), for a total of 150 cosponsors in the House and 34 in the Senate.

The bill sailed through Senate markup in July. Prior to the markup, a manager’s amendment (package of amendments from the lead sponsor or committee chair) introduced a few tailored changes, such as narrowing the bill to “passenger motor vehicles” as opposed to “motor vehicles” more generally and revising the requirement that radio be “conspicuous” to merely “easily accessible.” Changes were also made to the effective date and to the fee structure, but the core elements of the bill—requiring that AM radio will remain in cars and be placed in cars that have eliminated it—was not changed.

Once the Senate is back in session, the bill must be brought up before it is considered on the floor. This can happen by unanimous consent or by voting to adopt a motion to proceed to the bill. After this step of the bill process happens, Senators can then offer amendments. Unlike in the House, amendments in most circumstances are not subject to “germaneness” rules, and can sometimes include aspects that are unrelated to the bill. Furthermore, there is no limit to debate at each step of the process (motions to proceed, amendments, the bill itself), so there is no way to cut off debate to force a vote. This makes the bill’s time and debate on the floor unpredictable, but given its bipartisan support and quick progress so far, S.1669 has a good chance of avoiding these procedural difficulties.

Once the bill is passed on the Senate floor, all eyes will turn to the other chamber to see what happens with the House companion bill—potentially paving the way to the President’s desk. This fall is an excellent time to write, call, or even meet with your representatives in Congress to share about the positive impact of AM radio on listeners and tell them about the important community service activities going on at your stations.

Read more on the legislative process here, and learn more about the Senate bill here. NRB continues to monitor this legislation, champion the preservation of AM radio, and communicate with lawmakers about AM radio’s impact on religious listeners across the country. Please contact policy@nrb.org for more on how to communicate with lawmakers about this issue.

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