WASHINGTON — That loud “click” was Rep. Lee Terry hanging up on his robocalls bill.
“We're driving a stake through its heart,” the Omaha Republican said Wednesday. “Dead. Done. Buried.”
The legislation would have made it easier for people to receive autodialed, pre-recorded messages on their cellphones.
It was intended to help people conveniently receive information they wanted — notification of flight delays, school closings, prescription drug recalls and the like — while prohibiting unwanted calls, such as telemarketing solicitations.
But consumer groups condemned the proposal, saying it would open users to a flood of annoying calls that would drain the minutes on their cellphone plans.
Concerned constituents burned up Terry's office phone lines.
In an open letter to Congress last week, 48 of the 50 state attorneys general united in opposition to the legislation.
Terry said he always viewed the measure as simply a technical correction and was caught off guard at the firestorm of criticism it produced. He has said repeatedly that he never wanted anyone to receive a single unwanted call.
Terry said he worked with the consumer groups and lawmakers who opposed the legislation in an effort to address all their concerns, without success.
“There was just no language where they would be comfortable and I could be assured that people wouldn't receive unwanted calls,” Terry said.
So Terry and his co-sponsor, Rep. Ed Towns, D-N.Y., sent a letter Wednesday to Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asking that the legislation not be advanced.
The letter noted that a hearing on the bill drew attention to the need to modernize telecommunications policies.
“However, what we have learned is that there is no hope for this legislation,” they wrote in the letter.
Terry also had been criticized by political opponents over the bill.
The Nebraska Democratic Party, for example, was quick to jump on Wednesday's announcement, saying the fact that Terry ever introduced the robocalls bill shows he's out of touch with constituents and beholden to big campaign donors.
Terry said political attacks related to the bill could have been easily refuted. Still, it was clear that public perception of the measure was not good.
He said he was recently approached in Dundee by a woman who very politely told him she opposed the robocalls bill.
She was thrilled when Terry told her he was killing it.
“She said, ‘Oh, good.' She was so nice. She was really a neat lady, but (she said) ‘I hate that bill.' ”
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