HR 2143, an Internet gambling bill, was pulled from the House of Representatives suspension calendar today by its sponsors.
The bill was to be voted on today by the full House. Under the suspension calendar, it would have received 40 minutes of debate, could not be amended and would have needed a two-thirds majority to pass.
HR 2143 was introduced recently by Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., and passed in the Financial Services Committee. Its text is the same as the Leach Internet gambling bill, HR 21, minus the civil and criminal provisions.
Both bills would make it impossible for bettors to pay for illegal Internet gambling activities by banning online gaming merchants from accepting any bank instrument as payment.
The Leach bill was given a hostile amendment in the Judiciary Committee on May 14. The amendment, offered by Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, got rid of the bill's carve-outs for gambling sub-industries, including horse racing and dog racing.
In an effort to undo the Judiciary Committee's work on the Leach bill, Bachus and Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, the chairman of the Financial Services Committee, began pushing HR 2143, an alternate version of the bill that, because it lacks enforcement mechanisms, would not be marked up in the Judiciary Committee.
Their progress in pushing HR 2143 through Congress was stalled today, when the bill was taken off the voting schedule. Several Washington D.C. sources told Interactive Gaming News that the bill was pulled because Oxley knew he did not have enough votes to pass the bill.
"It was on the suspension calendar, which is designed for non-controversial bills, and it would need two-thirds approval, and given the opposition from Democrats as well as Republicans on our committee as well as the Resources Committee, it was pretty obvious that the bill did not have the votes to pass under suspension," said Jeff Lungren, a spokesman for the Judiciary Committee.
An online gaming source with Washington connections said the actions of Oxley to sidestep the Judiciary Committee ignited sore feelings among the chairmen of several House committees, resulting in a situation that would have made the bill harder to pass.
"If there's some kind of disagreement among committee chairman, it's hard for (House leadership) to make promises or choose one committee chair over another. It makes it a more controversial bill, and Oxley had basically been trying to avoid this controversy; that's why he was trying to bring it up on the suspension calendar," the source said.
Scott Duncan, a spokesman for the Financial Services Committee, gave a much different reason for the bill being pulled. He said it was done as a favor to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., by Chairman Oxley and that Frank was concerned that under suspension, the bill could not be amended.
"The ranking member of our committee, Barney Frank, had some procedural concerns with it, and he and the chairman have a very close working relationship," Duncan said.
Duncan insisted that Oxley did not take the bill off the suspension calendar because Oxley thought it might not pass.
"I think we're confident in the support the bill has," he said. "We have a long list of supporters on this bill that represent a great facet of everybody involved in this issue, and we're confident that we have the support. The issue was a procedural one, and I think that's demonstrated in the fact that we're still moving forward."