Dems vow to keep net neutrality riders out of funding bill

Dems vow to keep net neutrality riders out of funding bill
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats are warning Republicans that they will fight to keep budget riders to block net neutrality out of a government funding bill that must be passed by Dec. 11. 

Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyACLU sues DHS for records on purchased cell phone data to track immigrants DHS watchdog to probe agency's tracking of Americans' phone data without a warrant Manchin: Ocasio-Cortez 'more active on Twitter than anything else' MORE (D-Mass.) even predicted during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday that President Obama would veto any omnibus bill in December that included provisions to block the Federal Communications Commission's new Internet regulations. 


"I think the president should veto it. I think the president will veto it," Markey said. "This is a central economic growth issue for his administration. When a rider is going to distort the marketplace in the United States in such a radical way, and on a signature issue of the Obama era, then I think it is very clear that the president will put up a veto threat against inclusion of that rider."

Gene Kimmelman, president of open-Internet advocacy group Public Knowledge, said on the same call that there would be a "broad coalition to support a veto in that context."

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans The Hill's Morning Report - Fearing defeat, Trump claims 'illegal' ballots The Hill's Morning Report - Biden inches closer to victory MORE (D-Minn.), however, said Democrats will fight to make sure any rider does not make it that far.

"Our job is to prevent it from being in that bill," he said. 

It is unclear how hard Republicans will push the issue, with a number of other contentious issues on Congress's plate. But the GOP has included net neutrality riders in individual appropriations bills. 

"They have not said specifically, but our goal is to protect against its inclusion in an omnibus in December," Markey said. "That is our goal. We have enough comments from [Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)] and others to know that we have to be on high alert, because it is clearly in the mix of the major issues that they want to include."

Democrats and Republicans are at a standoff over funding levels in the appropriations process, preventing any individual appropriations bills from passing. Congress, which passed a continuing resolution to keep the government open at the end of September, will have to pass another one by Dec. 11. 

Republicans and Internet service providers — such as AT&T and Comcast — are almost universally against the net neutrality rules, which reclassify Internet service under stricter authority. The change gives regulators greater authority to make sure Internet service providers treat all Internet traffic equally — preventing them from slowing down or giving priority access to any website or app. 

"It is startling the lack of understanding among some members of Congress about what this is. Fortunately, 4 million Americans know what it is," Franken said, referencing the millions of comments the FCC received on the issue. 

Earlier this year, the House and Senate Appropriations committees included language in their Financial Service and General Government funding bills to prevent the FCC from regulating the rates that Internet providers charge customers. The House also included language to block the new regulations until an ongoing court battle is settled. 

Those bills passed committee votes but never reached the floor.