Earlier this week, we wrote about the apparent compromise in the Senate between Republicans and Democrats that would seemingly allow the Digital Television conversion deadline to be delayed from the current date of February 17 that stations have been warning consumers about for years, pushing that date back until June 12. That compromise legislation passed the Senate on a unanimous vote on Monday, and was considered in the House of Representatives today. The matter was considered by the House on their "suspension calender" – meaning that it was for legislation not deemed overly controversial that could be passed outside of the normal process of going through consideration by a committee before being voted on by the House. As such, it needed two-thirds approval of the House to pass. The vote on the proposed delay was 258 in favor, 168 opposed but, as it did not receive the required two-thirds vote, the bill did not pass. For the most part, Republicans voted against the bill, and Democrats in favor.
Is this the end of the extension? No one knows for sure. The House could still consider the matter under its normal rules, which would require quick consideration by a committee and another House vote – which would only require a majority approval. But, as the House bill is slightly different than the Senate version, it appears that the Senate would then have to vote once again on the revised bill – probably using an expedited process where only one Senator could block the consideration of the matter. So television stations are left in confusion as to whether the February 17 deadline will hold, and just what an extension will require for station operations – with less than 3 weeks to go before this current conversion deadline. Keep watching for the latest in this very interesting process.