Senate Democrats notched a win Wednesday with the approval of a resolution to restore the Obama-era net neutrality rule, forcing Republicans to take sides on a progressive niche issue expected to figure into the 2018 election.
The 52-47 vote to reverse the Federal Communication Commission’s decision, which repealed in December the 2015 broadband rule, sends the measure to the House, where it has virtually no chance of passage.
What’s more, President Trump is all but guaranteed to veto it in the unlikely event of House approval.
Even so, the vote came as a clear-cut victory for Democrats by forcing Republicans to go on the record, teeing up an obscure but highly charged issue popular with the progressive base six months before the critical midterm elections.
“[A]t stake is the future of the internet,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer after the vote.
Senate Republicans were unable to shut down the vote after three of their own sided with Democrats to allow a floor vote on the resolution proposed by Sen. Edward Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, who said the “public is telling us loud and clear that they want net neutrality.”
“It’s a debate over whether or not we are going to continue to have a free and open internet,” Mr. Markey said. “This vote is a test of the United States Senate and the American people are watching very closely.”
A frustrated Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, accused Democrats of political gamesmanship by forcing a vote on the resolution instead of getting behind a comprehensive legislation solution.
“We’re having this fake argument over a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval which is going nowhere, and my colleagues on the other side know that,” Mr. Thune said.
Voting with the Democrats were Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Kennedy of Louisiana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
The issue has become a cause celebre for progressive groups, stars and Democrats who have argued that the FCC’s decision to eliminate net neutrality threatens to raise prices and limit access for consumers by reducing regulations on Internet Service Providers like Comcast and AT&T.
“In December the FCC made a colossal mistake by rolling back net neutrality protections,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii Democrat. “And today the Senate has an opportunity to begin the process of righting that wrong with an up-or-down vote to overturn the FCC’s repeal and to restore the free and open internet. This is a big deal.”
Republicans argued that the internet operated and thrived for nearly 20 years prior to the FCC’s decision in 2015 to implement what critics have blasted as heavy-handed, utility-style regulations, and that the rule has stymied innovation and investment.