Senate Dems fail to strip net neutrality rider from spending bill

Senate Dems fail to strip net neutrality rider from spending bill

Democrats were unsuccessful Thursday in stripping out a net neutrality rider in a Senate spending bill that would bar the Federal Communications Commission from regulating the rates that Internet service providers charge their customers. 

Democrats urged the Senate Appropriations Committee to give net neutrality negotiations time to breath in the Commerce Committee, where Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneRepublicans agree — it’s only a matter of time for Scott Pruitt Senate moving ahead with border bill, despite Trump On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending MORE (R-S.D.) and ranking member Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonOvernight Defense: Defense spending bill amendments target hot-button issues | Space Force already facing hurdles | Senators voice 'deep' concerns at using military lawyers on immigration cases Rubio heckled by protestors outside immigration detention facility Obstacles to Trump's 'Space Force' could keep proposal grounded for now MORE (D-Fla.) have been trying to come up with a legislative solution. 

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"Sens. Thune and Nelson are having an ongoing and relatively productive, discreet negotiation about net neutrality and whether or not we can find common ground to enshrine the principles of net neutrality in a statute and consider the possibility of replacing the order at the FCC," Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDem senator: 'Stop pretending' law banning separation of migrant families is hard to pass Hillicon Valley: Judge approves AT&T-Time Warner deal in blow to DOJ | Dems renew push to secure state voting systems | Seattle reverses course on tax after Amazon backlash | Trump, senators headed for cyber clash | More Tesla layoffs Dems question FCC's claim of cyberattack during net neutrality comment period MORE (D-Hawaii) said.

"We don't know whether that will come to fruition or not. In order to respect that process of the ranking member and the chair, I think it's important for the appropriations committee to give that process a little space," he added. 

The Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted down the amendment to strip out the net neutrality rider and a host of others that are problematic to Democrats on a party-line, 16-14 vote. The overall Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill was passed out of committee in the same party-line vote. 

Ahead of the markup, Nelson also warned that Appropriations Committee meddling with net neutrality could undermine the talks. 

Little public progress has been reported on those negotiations in the past few months, and many Democrats have been fine to let the new FCC regulations stand on their own. 

Republicans have been fiercely against the FCC's new net neutrality rules, which reclassify Internet access as a telecommunications service — authority that governs traditional telephones. Under the order, the FCC has vowed to refrain from regulating the rates that companies like Comcast charge customers for Internet service.

Republicans have feared, however, of expanding power at the FCC. Supporters of net neutrality have accused Republicans of writing the provisions broadly so that it could potentially limit its authority in other areas — like interconnection, data caps or even universal service funds for broadband.  

"I don't support rate regulations, but I do support net neutrality," Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate moderates hunt for compromise on family separation bill All the times Horowitz contradicted Wray — but nobody seemed to notice Hillicon Valley: Trump hits China with massive tech tariffs | Facebook meets with GOP leaders over bias allegations | Judge sends Manafort to jail ahead of trial | AT&T completes Time Warner purchase MORE (D-Del.) said. 

Added Schatz: "As Sen. Coons mentioned, I don't think anybody is in favor of regulating retail broadband rates, but the proper context and committee for that conversation is the Commerce Committee."

With passage of the financial services spending bill, the committee has approved all 12 appropriations bills, but action has been stalled on the floor because of Democratic concerns about inadequate funding levels. And President Obama is likely to veto the spending bill due to funding concerns and policy riders.