Rep. Peter Rodino (D-N.J.) the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, urged Congress yesterday to abandon the effort to restructure American Telephone & Telegraph Co. until the end of government's massive antitrust suit against the Bell System.
The language of the Rodino letter, which shocked several communications observers in Congress, came as the House Commerce Committee prepared to consider tomorrow a sweeping bill that would alter the structure of AT&T, the nation's largest company.
"These concerns lead me to oppose inclusion of provisions in H.R. 6121 that would alter the structure of the industry prior to final resolution of the pending litigation," Rodino wrote in a letter to Rep. Lionel Van Deerlin (D-Calif,), chairman of the House Communications subcommittee.
Rodino also said that the chances of settling the case "are significant" unless the possibility of legislation deters serious consent talks.
Rodino said there is no doubt that Congress has the authority to alter the structure of the telecommunications industry.
"The issue here is the timing of a particular intervention by the Congress, which would significantly alter the structure of the industry while at the same time purporting to leave intatc the court's authority to grant other structural relief," he wrote.
Although the Department of Justice has said publicly that with a so-called "savings clause" the legislation would not jepordize the court case or subsequent relief, Rodino and Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), chairman of the Senate Antitrust Committee, have suggested that congressional resturcturing of AT&T with the antitrust case due to open in October could bar a court from ordering divestiture in the case.