Washington, Sept. 25 (Reuters): Congress today moved quickly to reinstate a popular “do-not-call” telemarketing list that millions had signed up for before it was blocked by a US court two days ago.
The House of Representatives voted today 412-8 to give the Federal Trade Commission authority to run the national “do-not-call” registry of phone numbers, which telemarketers would be prohibited to call.
The Senate was expected to vote on a nearly identical measure later.
The flurry of activity on Capitol Hill underlined the programme’s tremendous popularity among voters, who have placed 50 million home and mobile phone numbers on the list since it was launched this summer.
“This Congress has often been called a slow and cumbersome beast, but I think you can see how fast this Congress is prepared to move when 50 million Americans are angry,” said bill sponsor Representative Billy Tauzin in debate on the House floor.
After an Oklahoma City judge ruled late on Tuesday that the Federal Trade Commission did not have authority to oversee the list, at least 11 lawmakers introduced bills that would give the commission the necessary authority.
The Senate will later take up a bill sponsored by Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada that is nearly identical to the House bill, an aide to Senate majority leader Bill Frist said.
The White House signalled its support as well.
“These calls can be very annoying and intrusive,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.
The Federal Trade Commission asked the court yesterday to allow the programme to go forward while it appeals the decision.
The Direct Marketing Association, which filed the lawsuit in February, instructed its members to avoid calling those who had signed up for the list.
In the debate on the House floor, lawmakers condemned both the Oklahoma judge who issued the ruling and the telemarketers who pester Americans at home with unwanted sales calls.
“Unwanted telemarketing calls are less popular than a skunk at a church picnic, and they are more persistent and obnoxious than athlete’s foot,” said Representative John Dingell, the top Democrat on the energy and commerce committee and a co-sponsor of the bill.
Michigan Republican Representative Fred Upton brandished Judge Lee West’s phone number, while others thanked the Oklahoma judge for temporarily uniting a Congress that is frequently split along ideological lines. “I want to thank the judge for making us all love each other,” New York Democratic Representative Eliot Engel said.