What just happened? On Thursday the US Senate made the first move toward combating robocallers. A bill, which proposes harsher penalties on automated calls, passed with nearly unanimous bipartisan support 97-1.

The “Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act” or S 151 (aka the TRACED Act) looks to force telecoms to authenticate and block robocall and would impose higher fines and penalties on those who spam out calls using automated equipment. Penalties can go as high as $10,000 per call. The proposal also extends the statute of limitations from two years to three.

Roll Call notes, TRACED will give law enforcement the tools to pursue such scammers. If passed it would task the FCC, FTC, the departments of Justice, Commerce, State, Homeland Security, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and other agencies with providing feedback to Congress on deterrence and prosecutorial measures that can be taken at the state and federal levels.

The bipartisan bill was sponsored by Republican John Thune from South Dakota and Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey.

"When a New England Patriots fan and a Green Bay Packers fan can work together, there's some hope for the country," Thune quipped after the vote.

Markey responded in kind saying, “There are no blue robocalls. There are no red robocalls. There are only robocalls that drive every family in America crazy every single day.”

The legislation looks to address a problem that has been getting increasing attention from the FCC of late. Although it has approval from the Senate, the House of Representative still needs to vote on it before it can be passed on to the White House to be signed into law. It is unclear how the bill will address robocallers outside the jurisdiction of the United States.

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