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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 ThuneHouse, Senate GOP compete for cash Overnight Tech: Alleged robocall kingpin testifies before Congress | What lawmakers learned | Push for new robocall rules | Facebook changes privacy settings ahead of new data law | Time Warner CEO defends AT&T merger at trial Senators grill alleged robocall kingpin MORE (R-S.D.) and ranking member Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonOvernight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes Scott ramps up spending to million in Florida Senate race Overnight Energy: Trump NASA pick advances after drama | White House office to investigate Pruitt's soundproof booth | 170 lawmakers call for Pruitt to resign 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 SchatzOvernight Tech: AT&T chief takes the stand to defend merger | Facebook keeps most users out of EU data law's reach | HUD reopens probe into Facebook housing ads | Venture capital firms go to bat for cryptocurrencies Facebook investigated over alleged housing discrimination Senate confirms Trump’s pick to lead NASA 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 CoonsPompeo lacks votes for positive vote on panel Overnight Defense: House to begin work on defense policy bill | Panel to vote Monday on Pompeo | Trump to deliver Naval Academy commencement speech | Trump appeals decision blocking suspected combatant's transfer Heitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State 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.