House lawmakers formally rebuke leaders over phone ‘unlocking’ maneuver

Two Republican lawmakers introduced a resolution on Thursday criticizing House leadership for changing the text of a bill on cellphone “unlocking” before it hit the floor earlier this year.

Reps. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) introduced the measure to disapprove of the action from House leaders and the heads of the Judiciary Committee and direct them “to operate in a matter that maximizes transparency and public trust.”

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The action is a formal rebuke to House leaders for quietly slipping a controversial measure in February into the bill that allowed people to switch their cellphone from one network like AT&T or Verizon to another. The contested provision banned unlocking for “bulk resale,” which would have prevented people from setting up shop exclusively for unlocking phones and which supporters said was necessary to reduce the incentive for people to steal phones.

In their resolution, the two lawmakers claimed that the change “fundamentally altered the substance of the underlying bill.” 

Lawmakers blasted the move at the time.

Silicon Valley Democrats Reps. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) and Anna Eshoo (Calif.) circulated a letter asking lawmakers to vote against the bill, called the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, because it had “been destroyed by a secret decision of the majority after the bill was reported out” of the Judiciary Committee. 

Still, the measure from Jones and Massie is largely symbolic.

Though it was formally introduced amid the flurry of congressional activity on Thursday, which included the chamber’s leaders pulling back legislation to deal with the crisis of unaccompanied minors at the border, the resolution will not receive debate and likely will not advance. Neither Jones nor Massie delivered a speech on it from the floor and it will not go through the formal motions of being considered in the chamber.

Since the February vote on the cellphone bill, the Senate and House passed another version that did not include the contentious measure on bulk resale. That bill is currently on its way to President Obama.