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OVERNIGHT TECH: Reid out, patent reform in?

THE LEDE: Why is 2015 the year for patent reform? According to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyImpeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Overnight Health Care: Biden unveils COVID-19 relief plan | Post-holiday surge hits new deadly records | Senate report faults 'broken' system for insulin price hikes MORE (R-Iowa), it's because Sen. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Memo: Democrats scorn GOP warnings on impeachment Trump, Biden face new head-to-head contest in Georgia The fight begins over first primary of 2024 presidential contest 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 SchumerCowboys for Trump founder arrested following Capitol riot Graham calls on Schumer to hold vote to dismiss article of impeachment against Trump Biden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs MORE (N.Y.), and current Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynHarris to resign from Senate seat on Monday Cruz, Cornyn to attend Biden inauguration McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time MORE (R-Texas). But now Republicans control the chamber.  

Democratic Sen. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsSenate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster Security concerns mount ahead of Biden inauguration Trump impeachment collides with Biden's agenda MORE (Del.) has already come out against the bill. Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinOfficials brace for second Trump impeachment trial Sunday shows - Capital locked down ahead of Biden's inauguration Durbin says he won't whip votes for Trump's second impeachment trial 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 LeahyPompeo's flurry of foreign policy moves hampers Biden start Senior Democrat says Hawley, Cruz should step down from Judiciary Congress unveils .3 trillion government spending and virus relief package MORE (D-Vt.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharGoogle completes Fitbit acquisition Hillicon Valley: Fringe social networks boosted after Capitol attack | Planned protests spark fears of violence in Trump's final days | Election security efforts likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress US Chamber of Commerce to stop supporting some lawmakers following the Capitol riots 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 ThuneImpeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP For platform regulation Congress should use a European cheat sheet Streamlining the process of prior authorization for medical and surgical procedures 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 WydenBiden tax-hike proposals face bumpy road ahead Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media Senate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster 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 PaulMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Legislatures boost security after insurrection, FBI warnings Former Missouri senator says backing Hawley was 'worst mistake of my life' 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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