Greg Nash
Democrats are poised for a Senate push to restore net neutrality rules.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to file a discharge petition on Wednesday to force a vote on a bill that would nullify the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) December decision to kill the rules, which mandated that internet service providers treat all traffic equally.
{mosads}The bill has a real chance of passing the Senate, with a vote coming as soon as next week.
Restoring the net neutrality rules has the support of all 49 minority party members, as well as Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine). Assuming that all senators will be on hand for the vote — an open question, since Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) health has forced him to return home to Arizona — the bill needs just one more Republican to succeed.
But the legislation faces longer odds outside of the Senate. It would take a majority of the House to force a vote, meaning 25 Republicans would need to be on board.
Still, net neutrality supporters think the Senate bill is more than just a “message bill” intended only as a symbolic gesture. With the rules enjoying support from a vast majority of voters on both sides of the aisle, the thinking is that forcing a vote will put pressure on Republicans.
“I don’t think this is a message bill,” said Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press. “This is a chance to get members of Congress on record, and see whether they line up with where the vast majority of their voters are or not.”
A University of Maryland poll in December — taken days before the FCC’s repeal vote — found that 83 percent of voters favor keeping the rules in place. That figure includes 75 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Democrats.
But Washington Republicans are pushing back on the attempt to restore net neutrality rules, which prohibit internet service providers from blocking, throttling or discriminating against web content. Many in the GOP argue that the 2015 rules were too onerous for internet service providers, and that laws already on the books are sufficient to prevent service providers from abusing their power.
The Senate bill would use legislative authority under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to reverse the FCC’s vote. The CRA, which was seldom used before Trump came into office, allows Congress — with a simple majority in each chamber and the president’s signature — to overturn agency moves.
If passed, the CRA also prevents the agency from ever implementing similar actions in the future.
Democrats have been pushing for the 51st vote that will secure them a win in the Senate, and a number of consumer groups have been turning up the heat on the GOP senators who seem most likely to flip.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who’s publicly mulled whether to support the bill, seems like the most likely candidate. But Kennedy disappointed many net neutrality supporters earlier this year when he introduced his own bill that would replace the FCC rules with weaker protections that critics say are insufficient.
A Kennedy spokeswoman did not immediately respond when asked for comment, but it appears that the senator remains undecided about the CRA bill.
This week, net neutrality groups have enlisted thousands of small businesses and internet heavyweights like Reddit and Mozilla to target Kennedy and other lawmakers around the country ahead of the vote.
Evan Greer, an organizer with Fight for the Future who has been rallying the coalition, says that a congressional vote gives the public a greater chance to weigh in on the issue than the proceedings at the FCC.
“This is the moment when we can really make an impact,” Greer said. “The FCC does not have elected officials; they don’t technically have to listen to us.”
Activists hope that midterm pressure will sway some Republicans toward supporting restored net neutrality rules. That pressure, combined with GOP concerns about a potential Democratic wave in the midterm, could sway some Republicans to support the bill, Wood argues.
“The House and Senate are in a massive state of flux and that doesn’t look kindly on any kind of predictions,” Wood said.
Tags Charles Schumer John Kennedy John McCain Susan Collins

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