The US Senate today approved the TRACED Act, S. 151, as reported by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, by a vote of 97-1. Only Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) voted against the bill. Senate floor action came after the Commerce Committee filed its report on the bill, S. Rep. No 116-41. As previously noted, the TRACED Act would increase potential fines for illegal robocalls, extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting violators of the TCPA, and require the implementation of the SHAKEN/STIR call authentication framework by voice service providers.
It also–and most critically–creates a working group including most every federal agency with an enforcement arm designed to enhance regulatory enforcement of the TCPA. This creates a clear and present danger that regulators will become more involved enforcing the statute in the near term.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Pai promptly publicly commended the Senate’s action, commenting that the Act would “help strengthen the FCC’s ability to combat illegal robocalls.” He welcomed “[f]urther powers like increased fines, longer statutes of limitations, and removing citation requirements which obligate us to warn some robocallers before penalizing them….” Commissioner Brendan Carr also voiced his approval.
The TRACED Act now goes to the House of Representatives, where a companion bill, H.R. 2015, is among those pending before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. At this point, it has 31 supporters, with Republicans decidedly outnumbering Democrats.
Reported reaction to Senate passage of S. 151 on the other side of the Capitol was that the broader approach embodied in House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone’s (D-NJ) Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, H.R. 946 was more favored by the Democrats. A House Energy and Commerce Committee spokesperson reportedly noted that the Committee planned to hold a markup soon on the legislation it was considering to “protect consumers from illegal and unwanted robocalls.” These efforts would include “working out any differences between the bills and getting legislation signed in to law.”
In view of the vote margin in the Senate and the bi-partisan clamoring in the House for solutions, anti-robocall legislation seems almost inevitable this year. How close the ultimate contents will be to the just-passed TRACED Act remains open for considerable ongoing debate and discussion. But as the House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) reportedly recently commented – “there is a deal to be had here.” Stay tuned.