OVERNIGHT TECH: Reid out, patent reform in?

THE LEDE: Why is 2015 the year for patent reform? According to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOn The Money: McConnell says it's time to restart coronavirus talks | New report finds majority of Americans support merger moratorium | Corporate bankruptcies on pace for 10-year high McConnell: Time to restart coronavirus talks GOP Finance chairman raises concerns about Trump push to make payroll-tax deferral permanent MORE (R-Iowa), it's because Sen. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidKamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner McConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill Kamala Harris to young Black women at conference: 'I want you to be ambitious' MORE (D-Nev.) is no longer majority leader. 

"Last year it was stalled by a significant person running the U.S. Senate, I don't think there will be that stall this time," Grassley said of Reid during a press conference announcing a bipartisan bill to curb abusive patent litigation tactics used by so-called "trolls."

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As a reform bill started working through the Senate last year, then-Majority Leader Reid vowed to prevent it from hitting the floor, causing movement to stall in committee. The bill introduced Wednesday is largely based on a previous compromise worked out last year between the No. 3 Democrat, Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerLawmakers push Trump to restore full funding for National Guards responding to pandemic Bipartisan senators ask congressional leadership to extend census deadline Lawmakers of color urge Democratic leadership to protect underserved communities in coronavirus talks MORE (N.Y.), and current Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynThree pros and three cons to Biden picking Harris The Hill's 12:30 Report - Speculation over Biden's running mate announcement Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump MORE (R-Texas). But now Republicans control the chamber.  

Democratic Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsObamas, Clintons to headline Biden's nominating convention Wary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS MORE (Del.) has already come out against the bill. Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Negotiators signal relief bill stuck, not dead White House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Sunday shows - Trump coronavirus executive orders reverberate MORE (Ill.) has also been skeptical of broad reform. Schumer would not predict how many Democrats will end up supporting the final bill, but he was confident it will receive the 60 votes needed to pass.

"We've got three members of the Judiciary Committee up there already, we'll see how many more," Schumer said, alluding to himself, Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Vermont has a chance to show how bipartisanship can tackle systemic racism MORE (D-Vt.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharCalifornia Dems back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package MORE (D-Minn.) who are backing the bill. 

COPYRIGHT GROUP FORMS: A group of technology companies, retail companies and broadcasters formed a new copyright trade group to "ensure that upcoming decisions on copyright are grounded in rationality, affordability and predictability." The Music. Innovation. Consumer (MIC) group cited pivotal decisions in copyright law being made at the Justice Department, the Copyright Royalty Board and Congress in the next year and a half. Companies joining the group include Google, the Consumer Electronics Association, CCIA, Pandora Radio, the National Association of Broadcasters and others. 

FCC FINES AT&T: The Federal Communications Commission fined AT&T $6.9 million and Southern New England Telephone $4 million for over-billing the commission for Lifeline Program reimbursements. The program is meant to help subsidize phone service for low-income individuals. A 2013 audit found that the two companies offered an extra month of support to some individuals who no longer qualified for the program. The companies then received reimbursements from the FCC for those customers. In a statement, AT&T said it voluntarily self-reported and paid back the money a year ago. It also put in safeguards so it would not happen again. 

CONNECT AMERICA FUND EXPANDS: The U.S. Telecom Association applauded the FCC on Wednesday for offering providers $1.7 billion to expand broadband service in rural areas under the Connect America Fund. The program, created in 2011, is meant to provide carriers with $10 billion over the next six years. 

"We congratulate the commission and staff on their work, and hope that the final steps to completing the Connect America Fund, including development of a process for competitive bidding, will be put in place shortly," the group's president Walter McCormick said.

SENATE LOOKING AT DISH WINNINGS: The Senate Commerce Committee is probing Dish Networks bidding practices in the spectrum auction that ended in January. Dish received a more than $3 billion discount on its spectrum by bidding through two smaller companies, which were able to use a discount for small businesses. The committee is requesting documents from Dish, the FCC and the two affiliate companies. 

"While the FCC is reportedly already looking at whether DISH broke auction rules, an examination of how these affiliated companies approached the auction is the only way for Congress to determine whether this three billion dollar price tag was appropriate or a result of wrongful conduct, flawed agency rules, or laws Congress must update," Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneDavis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Trump says he'll accept nomination from either White House or Gettysburg Meadows says he wants Trump nomination speech 'miles and miles away' from White House MORE (R-S.D.) said. 

WHEELER HAS 'CONCERNS' WITH HOUSE BILLS: Chairman Tom Wheeler will express "serious concerns" about a trio of transparency proposals being pushed by House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee. In prepared testimony in front of the committee, Wheeler will say the reforms single out the FCC rather than making changes to the entire Administrative Procedure Act. GOP commissioner Michael O'Rielly, who will also testify, will note that he does not usually comment on specific legislation. But he will say that "in general" he believes the process reforms would improve the functions of the FCC.

One of the bills would require the commission to publicly release draft rules three weeks ahead of a vote -- at the same time FCC commissioners get a full look at them. Another bill would force the commission to publish the finalized rules the day they are approved. The third proposal would require the commission to publicly list the actions the FCC takes at the staff level.

ON TAP: 

Starting at 9:30 a.m., the Institute for Policy Innovation will hold an event on intellectual property.

A Hack4Congress event starting at 8 a.m. will feature speakers including Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog report raises new questions for top Interior lawyer | Senate Democrats ask Trump to withdraw controversial public lands nominee | Border wall water use threatens endangered species, environmentalists say Watchdog report raises new questions for top Interior lawyer Trump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter MORE and John Thune.

At 10 a.m, the House Judiciary Committee will begin marking up the USA Freedom Act

At 10 a.m., FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and GOP Commissioner Michael O'Rielly will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: 

The House TROL Act could see changes before hitting the floor.

Senate leaders on Wednesday introduced new legislation that would crack down on "patent trolls," reviving a push for reform that stalled in the upper chamber last year. 

Encrypted Apple and Google devices are protecting rapists, fraudsters and human traffickers, law enforcement officials argued before mostly skeptical lawmakers on Wednesday.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulWatchdog calls for probe into Gohmert 'disregarding public health guidance' on COVID-19 Massie plans to donate plasma after testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies After trillions in tax cuts for the rich, Republicans refuse to help struggling Americans MORE (R-Ky.) on Wednesday introduced a resolution to block net neutrality rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission in February. 

—Updated 9:15 p.m.

 

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