This afternoon in Cedar Rapids Iowa, Congressman Jim Leach is holding a 'Field Hearing' to discuss issues relating to the Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act, which Leach co-sponsored in the House of Representatives. The bill passed the House by an easy margin of 317-93, but most pundits agree the bill passing the Senate will not be as easy.
To build support for the bill, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will join Leach today in Iowa, for a public hearing that is sure to highlight the tensions that exist on both sides of the argument.
The Senate reconvenes on Tuesday for its Fall session. Since the Senate broke for recess, a lot has happened that make the issues surrounding this bill all the more complex. Yesterday, the Independent Community Bankers of America came out in opposition to this bill, stating that the human, and economic costs of that banks monitoring transactions (the part of the 'enforcement' process of the proposed ban) were prohibitive to the legislation being practical. The much larger American Banking Association has yet to weigh in with its position on the matter, but many in the banking industry feel the official ABA response will be either 'neutral', or 'opposed', with 'in support of' being the least likely possibility.
The Senate must also grapple with the fact that this is an election year, and only those politicians whose constituencies are the most aligned one way or the other will be able to take a firm stand on this issue. Even staunch supporters of the bill agree this issue may be 'too hot' to take on in the last session before elections. The Fall session would only provide a little more than a month for the debate, and resolution of the issue, which many feel simply may not be enough.
Senator Frist was quoted about three weeks ago as saying the online gaming bill was his 'lowest priority' for the Fall session of the Senate, which many feel sealed the legislation's fate for this year.
There should be some tension in the hall this afternoon in Cedar Rapids, and one would assume the discussion may get heated.