- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Senate Democrats launched a drive Wednesday to force a vote that could restore Obama-era “net neutrality” rules for the internet, looking to overturn the Trump administration’s decision last year to revoke the rules.

Net neutrality has become a major flash point with liberal activists and a broad swath of the online community saying the rules prevent internet companies from slowing down or otherwise hindering access to some websites.

“This is a fight for the most powerful platform for commerce and communications in the history of the internet,” said Sen. Ed Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, who is leading the new effort.

Democrats are using the Congressional Review Act to try to overturn the December decision by the Federal Communications Commission to cancel net neutrality.

The CRA, which Republicans used to revoke more than a dozen Obama-era rules, sets up a speedy timeline for action in Congress and only requires a majority vote in the Senate.



Democrats say they can reach that threshold, with all 49 members of their caucus and Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, prepared to vote with them. With Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, having missed votes this year as he battles cancer, the 50-49 vote would be enough to clear the Senate.

But the bill would also have to pass the GOP-led House and could be vetoed by the president — and it would take a two-thirds vote in both chambers to overcome that. Mr. Trump is unlikely to back the Democrats’ effort to overturn one of his administration’s actions.

“The administration supports the FCC’s efforts and at the same time the White House certainly has and always will support a free and fair internet,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in December, at the time of the FCC’s vote.

Mrs. Sanders said the White House wants to see Congress take action to ensure fair rules for everyone, rather than the FCC through its rule-making process.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, called the Democrats’ push for a vote “political theater.”

“The internet is too important for partisan politics. Congress must codify widely accepted net neutrality protections through bipartisan legislation,” Mr. Thune wrote in a CNBC op-ed Wednesday.

Republican senators say Democrats are looking to restore outdated regulations rather than working together on a forward-thinking, bipartisan fix.

A poll taken after the FCC voted to undue the Obama-era net neutrality rules revealed 45 percent of registered voters thought it was the wrong approach, while only 21 percent supported the repeal.

“We are now one step away from allowing the American public to see where their elected officials stand on protecting their internet service. Are they protecting average consumers and middle class families or are they protecting the big, corporate and special interests?” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

The American Library Association, the largest and oldest library association, is backing the Democrats’ move, tweeting, “Starting now, the internet is on #RedAlert. Contact your member of Congress to tell them how important this issue is to libraries.”

And Tinder, a popular dating app for millennials, has a banner encouraging its users to contact their senators. “Protect the open internet tell your senator — vote to save net neutrality,” Tinder’s banner reads.

“The internet is lighting up in protest once again, because this Senate vote will impact the future of the web for years to come,” added Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future. “This is the most important moment in tech policy since the FCC repeal, and everyone should be paying attention.”

⦁ Valerie Richardson contributed to this report.

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