House passes anti-robocall bill by nearly unanimous vote

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers have found robocalls aren’t only a nuisance, but also, a threat to places like hospitals. After months of debate, they landed on a compromise to stop the calls.

“The House is giving Americans back control of their phones,” said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey.

More than 50 billion illegal robocalls rang customers’ phones in 2018. Pallone is working to block them.

“These calls are not just annoying," said Rep. Pallone. "In a lot of instances, they are scams targeted at consumers, and unfortunately, these scams are becoming more sophisticated every day.”

A bill the House passed Wednesday, Dec. 4 would require most phone companies to make sure calls are coming from real numbers. The legislation would also require carriers to block robocalls without charging customers like Oregon Congressman Greg Walden any extra money.

“I got one today already, and I imagine speaking here, I’ll get five more,” said U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon.

The bill would also make it easier for the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice to catch and convict the scammers on the other end of the calls.

Only three House members voted against this compromise version of the TRACED Act, concerned it could give the FCC too much authority. Tennessee Republican David Kustoff disagreed.

“The robocall issue is one issue, maybe the one issue, that’s united everybody, Republicans and Democrats," said Kustoff.

New York Democrat Anthony Brindisi also voted for the bill.

"This is a big concern that we hear from constituents," said Brindisi. "Something has to be done.”

The legislation headed back to the Senate, where lawmakers were expected to send the bill to President Donald Trump, who planned to hang up on these illegal robocallers before Christmas.

A group of attorneys general from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., recently joined a dozen phone companies to announce their plan to combat illegal robocalls.

Many of the companies have already agreed to implement call-blocking technology at no extra cost to customers.