Rep. Clarke Moves to Force Vote on ACP Funding Bill

Digital Inclusion

A majority of the House would need to sign on to the discharge petition.

Jake Neenan Rep. Clarke Moves to Force Vote on ACP Funding Bill Photo of Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-New York, from her website

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2024 – Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-New York, filed on Tuesday a measure to force a House floor vote on the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act, which would infuse the imperiled fund with $7 billion.

Clarke put forward a discharge petition that, with the signatures of a majority of House members, would bring the bill to the floor for a vote by the entire chamber.

“I implore my colleagues to join me by signing the discharge petition,” Clarke said in a release. “This will ensure the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act receives the vote it deserves on the floor of the House of Representatives. We cannot turn our back on the progress made in closing the digital divide.”

The ACP was stood up with $14 billion by the Infrastructure Act and provides about 23 million low-income households with a $30-$75 monthly discount on their internet bills. The program is now running out of funds despite efforts to save it – April is the last month in which providers will get the full reimbursement for their ACP participants, and the last of the remaining money is set to dry up in May.

Clarke’s ACP Extension Act, introduced in January and now sitting in committee, currently has 223 cosponsors in the House, including 21 Republicans. That’s more than the bare majority of 218 required to bring the bill forward, but the petition will need at least that many signatures to set those gears in motion.

If the petition gets a majority of the chamber to sign on, it would need to wait seven legislative days before being scheduled and eventually brought to the floor. If approved, the House would then vote on the ACP Extension Act itself. The Senate would still need to pass the measure if it makes it out of the House.

Despite the widespread support from industry, advocates, and lawmakers, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, has been tight-lipped about the bill and the ACP generally. Industry analysts have been doubtful about the odds of him bringing the bill to the floor on his own.

Discharge petitions are seldom used a rarely successful, according to congressional data compiled by the Brookings Institution. The last successful attempt was in 2015, but House lawmakers are currently pursuing another petition to secure aid for Ukraine.

Other legislative avenues for shoring up the program have not been fruitful, as last month’s spending package omitted any ACP funding. The FCC chair has discussed with lawmakers folding the program into the agency’s existing Universal Service Fund as a more stable alternative to congressional appropriations.