On Wednesday, May 16, Senate Democrats will force a vote to repeal the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to adopt changes to net-neutrality rules. In December 2017, the FCC voted 3-2 to repeal net-neutrality rules put in place during the Obama administration to protect users’ equal access to the information on the Internet. The decision set off a firestorm of protest across the country, from Silicon Valley boardrooms to high school classrooms.
According to the Associated Press, Senate Democrats filed a discharge petition last week, which triggered Wednesday’s vote under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). While the FCC is an independent government agency, it is overseen by Congress. Whenever a federal agency has submitted a final rule to Congress, Congress has a 60-legislative-day window to overturn the rule under the Congressional Review Act, according to The Washington Post. Unlike the two-thirds, or 60-vote, majority senators must typically obtain to pass a piece of legislation, senators need only a 51-vote majority to pass something under a CRA vote.
Use of the CRA used to be rare, according to The Hill, but Republicans recently made liberal use of what was once considered a relatively rare measure, using the CRA to overturn 14 regulations approved in the final weeks of the Obama presidency during the early days of the Trump administration, as Vox documented.
Wednesday’s measure is backed by all 47 Senate Democrats, as well as Senator Angus King of Maine and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, both Independents who caucus with Democrats and rarely vote outside their party lines, and Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins. With Democrats one vote shy of the needed simple majority, a petition is circling on change.org urging eight senators, including Republican senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, an outspoken critic of President Trump who isn’t seeking reelection in this year’s midterms, to join his colleagues in voting against the FCC’s decision.
If Senate Democrats are successful in reaching the majority, the resolution will go to on to the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, where its passage would be more difficult, according to CNN. If successful in the House, it would then go to President Trump’s desk to await his signature, although the President’s support is unlikely, despite the amount of time he spends on the Internet.
Announcing that Democrats would force a vote on the repeal of net neutrality, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York 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 everyday consumers.”
Net neutrality, which forces private companies to provide equal access to the Internet, is expected to be a major campaign issue Democrats will use in the 2018 midterm elections, not least for its importance to young people. Shortly before the FCC’s vote last December, polling by the University of Maryland showed that 83 percent of voters opposed the FCC’s plan to repeal net neutrality.
Broken down by political party, 89 percent of Democrats opposed the repeal, along with 75 percent of Republicans, suggesting GOP candidates will face a difficult choice when it comes to publicly siding with the Trump administration or voters on the issue during what could be a difficult midterm season for Republicans.
In a tweet on Tuesday morning, the Women’s March said, “For women, whose online voices are already marginalized, the loss of the open Internet is a threat to your voice.” Shortly after the FCC’s vote last December, GLAAD released a statement saying, in part, “The repeal of net neutrality is an attack on the LGBTQ community” and Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO, called the repeal “a direct and unconscionable attack on freedom of expression.” Wednesday’s vote comes ahead of the FCC date set for the end of net neutrality: June 11.
If You’d Like to Call Congress to Make Your Voice Heard on Net Neutrality, You Can Use This Tool Created by the ACLU.
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Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: Why Net Neutrality Is Fundamental to Democracy