Democrats launch net neutrality fight to energize midterm voters

- April 30, 2018

Senate Democrats are preparing to force a floor vote next month on restoring net neutrality rules repealed by President Donald Trump's Federal Communications Commission, creating a public clash they hope will help them in the midterm elections.

Democrats are planning to take the procedural step May 9 to compel the vote, a Senate Democratic aide told POLITICO. That could set up the vote as soon as the following week.

Senate Democrats have 50 votes lined up — more than enough to force a vote under the Congressional Review Act, but one shy of the 51 required for passage. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is the only Republican who has pledged support for the effort so far.

Even with Senate passage, the Democrats' proposal would be unlikely to get through the House or earn Trump's signature. But their plans for a floor fight would still add visibility to an issue that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has suggested will resonate with younger, internet-savvy voters.

“We’re in the homestretch in the fight to save net neutrality,” Schumer said in a statement. “Soon, the American people will know which side their member of Congress is on: fighting for big corporations and ISPs or defending small business owners, entrepreneurs, middle-class families and every-day consumers.”


The congressional resolution is the latest showdown in a decadelong fight over net neutrality, the concept that internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon should treat all internet traffic equally as it passes through their networks. The FCC has repeatedly tried to enact net neutrality rules, only to be thwarted in court or by changes of leadership at the commission.

FCC Republicans led by Chairman Ajit Pai repealed the latest, Obama-era net neutrality order in December, arguing the rules are burdensome and unnecessary to preserving an open internet. Democrats have 60 legislative days to force a vote to reverse the decision following publication of the FCC’s repeal in the Federal Register on Feb. 22.

Democrats and pro-net neutrality groups have been searching for the elusive 51st vote for weeks, putting a special focus on Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.), who has said he's undecided on the issue.

“We’re only one vote away from securing a victory in the Senate,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who introduced the resolution to undo the FCC repeal, told reporters Thursday. “Momentum continues to build in every corner of the country.”

Democrats are planning another net neutrality "day of action” to rally support on May 9, the Senate aide said.

Ashley Gold contributed to this report.


 

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