Senate voted Wednesday to reinstate Obama-era net neutrality rules that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed last December. While the issue has little hope of advancing to a vote in the House, it provides Democrats with a rallying point during the upcoming midterm election season.
The repeal of net neutrality, instituted by FCC head Ajit Pai, would end 2015’s Open Internet Order, a rule that prevents internet service providers from slowing or blocking certain internet content. After several delays, the repeal is currently set to go into effect on June 11th.
But in a last ditch effort to keep the regulations, Democrats used an obscure tool called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to reverse the ruling. The CRA allows lawmakers to review and potentially repeal new rules made by federal oversight agencies.
Republicans have used the same process at least 16 times in the past year to revoke a number of rules and guidelines created during the Obama era. Using a CRA expedites the voting process and requires only a majority vote and President Donald Trump’s signature to overturn rules.
All Senate Democrats and three Republicans, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and John Kennedy, successfully brought the issue to the floor and voted to overturn it with a final tally of 52-47. Democrats now need at least 25 Republicans to join them in the House, an uphill battle to say the least.
Still, Democrats are already using their messaging in campaign material. In a statement sent around Wednesday evening, the DSCC wrote that, “Today Democrats had to demand a vote to protect free and open internet, another reminder of how far Republicans will go to make life more expensive for Americans.
“It’s typical of how Republicans have used their total control of Washington: Increase costs on Americans who actually work for a living while giving more breaks to the rich, well-connected special interests they care about.”
Recent polls show that 83 percent of voters support keeping the net neutrality rules in place. According to Statista, the American public is strongly in favor of keeping net neutrality, regardless of party affiliation.
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Democrats argue that net neutrality is necessary to keep the internet free and give all companies an equal playing field.
Senator Kamala Harris in a statement: “Broadband service providers — the gatekeepers to the Internet — have the technical means and business incentive to distort the online marketplace.”
Senator Ron Wyden said on the floor: "There is no vote that this body is going to take in 2018 that will have a more direct impact on the wallets of Americans than the one is going to happen in a few hours.”
Republicans argued that net neutrality just added unnecessary regulations to the marketplace. “This resolution takes us in the wrong direction,” said Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. He said that instead lawmakers should write legislation "that would safeguard consumers but still prevent regulators from stifling innovation."
He said that instead, "Democrats have already made clear that the resolution today is about the elections in November. They know they won't ultimately be successful, but they want to campaign on their desire to add new regulations to the internet.”
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