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Republican makes plea on net neutrality bill

Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHere are the three GOP lawmakers who voted for the Equality Act Lobbying world Bottom line MORE (R-Ore.) on Monday asked the White House to turn off Democrats' "shock collars" and let members negotiate a legislative deal on net neutrality. 

Walden, the head of the Commerce subcommittee on communications and technology, made another plea for congressional Democrats to come to the negotiating table following the Federal Communications Commission's approval of regulations to reclassify the Internet under authority governing traditional telephones. 

"I'm hopeful now that the commission has acted that Democrats will have their shock collars turned off and they'll actually be able to cross the line and work with us," he said during a talk at the American Enterprise Institute. 

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Republicans have claimed the White House pressured Democrats to resist any negotiations until after the FCC voted. There is tremendous frustration, Walden said, that Republicans have pivoted so far on the issue without equal compromise from Democrats. 

"I am at a loss for how to make my plea any clearer to my colleagues," he said in prepared remarks. "Please work with us to draft a bill. What the FCC did last week is ill advised, illogical, and illegal. And while there are other tools at Congress’s disposal to express our displeasure with this action, I remain firmly committed to a bipartisan legislative solution."

Republicans are somewhat divided on the best tactic to thwart the rules, with people like Walden endorsing compromise legislation while others are pushing an outright block the FCC's new regulations through a resolution of disapproval. 

Walden and others on the House and Senate Commerce committees are prioritizing legislation to enact many of the net neutrality principles advocates have supported, while at the same time restricting some of the FCC's authority. They have not ruled out the disapproval resolution as a last resort. 

Most Democrats have applauded the FCC’s move and don’t see the need for further legislation. 

"I know that is going to be a lift," Walden said about asking Democrats to go against the FCC plan, which President Obama endorsed. 

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Walden took a number of shots and Obama and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, disputing the account about how Wheeler came to his decision. 

Wheeler initially proposed lighter rules using an alternate authority to reclassification. The FCC claims his evolution was spurred by public input and legal arguments, going back to last October. 

Critics, however, claim he bowed to pressure from the White House after Obama made public recommendations in November. 

Walden said Wheeler’s timeline does not hold up, judging from a meeting the two had in November. 

"And in that meeting, Chairman Wheeler assured me that he was committed to net neutrality without reclassification of broadband," Walden said. "This stands in stark contrast to press reports of Chairman Wheeler’s ‘summer epiphany’ and decision to impose net neutrality through reclassification as a telecommunications service."

Walden also speculated that a few people at the White House "helped, probably, write" the proposal. 

Aside from net neutrality, Walden also touched on his years-long process to update the Communications Act and his committee's plan to reauthorize the FCC. 

"As we continue down our path to modernizing the laws governing the communications sector, it only makes sense to begin with the agency at the heart of implementing and enforcing those laws," he said in the speech.