Rep. Edward MarkeyEd MarkeyDems rip Trump administration for revoking Obama's transgender directive A guide to the committees: Senate GOP sets sights on internet privacy rules MORE's (D-Mass.) run for Sen. John KerryJohn KerryFormer Obama officials say Netanyahu turned down secret peace deal: AP How dealmaker Trump can resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict John Kerry to teach at Yale on global issues MORE's (D-Mass.) seat may leave the House Energy and Commerce Committee without one of its longest-serving members and fiercest advocates for online privacy rights.
Markey is the first person to formally announce their candidacy in the Massachusetts special election race, though it is believed that Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), who was defeated in November by Democrat Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenPoll: Senate should confirm Gorsuch Sanders, not Trump, is the real working-class hero Warren wants briefing on probe into Trump ally MORE, will run as a GOP challenger.
It's too early to say how the race will shake out, but Markey's Senate bid has some observers questioning how his possible departure from the House will affect the dynamics on Energy and Commerce.
Markey has been active on energy policy during his time on the committee. He has also served as a leader on its telecommunications subpanel for more than 20 years and is credited for his work on prominent cable TV and telecom legislation.
"His institutional memory is unbelievable," said Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group.
The Massachusetts Democrat has been a vocal proponent of net-neutrality rules, which require Internet service providers to treat all Web traffic equally, and hammered the now-defunct AT&T/T-Mobile merger while serving on Energy and Commerce. Those positions often upset some major industry players.
"There are some good folks on that committee who won't stand up to Google, to the tech industry," Sohn said. "He'll stand up to anybody."
When reviewing policy, "he doesn't think about what Google is going to think, what is Comcast going to think, and what would Verizon think," Sohn added.
Markey's Senate bid is also causing some to question who will possibly fill his role as co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, a position he shares with Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). Markey has made online privacy one of his top policy issues as personal information has become more available on the Web and social media.
"There are very few privacy issues that have emerged over the last couple of years that he has not weighed in on," said Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, a partner at lobbying firm Monument Policy Group. "I think he has basically been active across the board on privacy issues."
She added that there are several members on Energy and Commerce who are engaged in online privacy issues, but said "it's hard to say in the new year who will be more active."
Within the past year, Markey has questioned Facebook, Google and Microsoft about their privacy practices. He also introduced legislation that would require drone operators to follow a set of privacy safeguards, as well as a bill that would require companies to inform consumers if monitoring software is installed on a mobile phone or app they purchase.
Kerry has been viewed as an advocate for online privacy rights during his time on the Senate Commerce Committee. Last year, he introduced comprehensive privacy legislation with Sen. John McCainJohn McCainMcCain made secret trip to Syria A guide to the committees: Senate Webb: The future of conservatism MORE (R-Ariz.).
Sohn said Kerry's departure from the committee will "be a loss" because of his work on online privacy and open Internet matters, but that Markey would be a natural candidate for a seat on Commerce.
"That's right in his wheelhouse," she said.