There’s one issue that is likely to unite Congress before the end of the year: tackling the robocall epidemic plaguing phones of lawmakers and constituents alike. House and Senate lawmakers released text Wednesday of a bipartisan compromise measure that merges the House and Senate versions passed earlier this year.
The joint bill will require phone companies to verify that phone numbers are real and block robocalls without charging consumers any extra money. The measure also pushes the Justice Department to bring more criminal prosecutions against robocallers and gives the Federal Communications Commission more time and authority to investigate and punish illegal robocallers.
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., and Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., a top member of the Senate Commerce Committee, took the lead on the compromise bill, which bears their names, and hope to send the bill to President Donald Trump’s desk by 2020.
Lawmakers announced that a deal was reached earlier this month, but the final compromise legislation was not released until Wednesday.
“It’s time to put Americans back in charge of their phones,” House and Senate lawmakers said in the statement.
The House could take up the measure as soon as next week under suspension of the rules, a fast-track process that requires two-thirds support for passage. There was just one vote against the Senate version of the robocalls bill in May, and it’s not yet clear if Kentucky Republican Rand Paul will take action to hold up the compromise version.
The House and Senate have worked for months on the legislation, aimed at addressing the increasing number of calls that aggravate Americans and, in many cases, prey on vulnerable populations who are at higher risk of falling for scammers ploys to steal personally identifying information or money.
Technological advances in recent years have allowed robocallers to target thousands of phones with minimal effort, which some advocates say has rendered the 2003 National Do Not Call Registry ineffective.