Senate Dems move to force net neutrality vote

Senate Democrats on Wednesday formally launched their push to bring a vote on restoring net neutrality protections to the Senate floor.

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“I believe that today kicks off the most important day for the internet that the Senate has ever seen,” said Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: AT&T paid Michael Cohen for ‘insights’ into administration | White House hosting AI summit | Georgia gov vetoes controversial cyber bill | Show of force for CIA pick | FCC chair meets Sprint, T-Mobile execs This week: Senate tees off net neutrality showdown Dem senators urge FDA to remove powerful opioids from the market MORE (D-Mass.), who is spearheading the net neutrality push in the Senate.

Markey and other Democrats portrayed the issue as one of fairness, arguing that Republican Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to scrap net neutrality would hurt consumers while protecting large corporations.

“Our Republican friends say ‘let the free market prevail,’ ” said Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBusinessman Mike Braun wins GOP Indiana Senate nomination Overnight Health Care: Drug exec apologizes for large opioid shipments | Schumer vows to be ‘relentless’ in tying GOP to premium hikes | House panel advances VA reform bill Election season is great time to debate net neutrality in America MORE (D-N.Y.) “We don’t do that for highways.”

He and others argued that if net neutrality rules were scrapped consumers would have to front the bill, paying higher premiums to access the internet.

“Under the Trump administration, everything is for sale. Our public lands, our privacy. Even our access to the internet,” said Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDems hammer Trump over withdrawal from Iran deal House Dems’ campaign arm rips Trump, GOP over Iran deal: ‘Vote them all out’ Top Dem questions CIA campaign to secure Haspel nomination MORE (Ill.), the No. 2-ranking Democrat in the Senate.

The FCC voted in December to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules on the grounds that they harm innovation. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai lambasted the Obama-era rules as a gross overreach and downplayed the impact of repealing them. 

“There will still be cops on the beat guarding a free and open internet,” Pai said. “This is the way things were prior to 2015, and this is the way they will be once again.”

The FCC’s action sparked an uproar, creating a political issue that Senate Democrats made clear they intend to highlight in the midterm election campaign.

“This bill does one simple thing: it gets every member of the Senate on the record for or against net neutrality,” said Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDem senator slams Pence for praising ‘unlawful racist’ Arpaio Senate Dems call on FCC chair to hold off on media ownership efforts Menendez admonished by Ethics panel, which says he broke the law MORE (D-Hawaii), during a press conference formally unveiling the net neutrality resolution.

“Republicans are going to regret it from a public policy standpoint and a political standpoint,” he said. “I cannot think of an issue that polls so decisively on one side.”

Democrats will now officially push to force a vote on net neutrality under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). If the resolution is passed by Congress and signed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpMcConnell trolls Blankenship on Twitter: ‘Thanks for playing, Don’ Pittenger loses GOP primary fight Blankenship concedes GOP Senate primary in W. Va. MORE — an unlikely outcome — it would reverse Pai’s repeal of net neutrality measures.

Congressional procedure allows Schumer to bring a CRA to the floor, even without Republican leadership on board, and Democrats appear to have the votes to succeed in the Senate.

Every senator that caucuses with Democrats is backing the resolution, as is Republican Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate GOP warms to Trump’s rescissions package The Hill’s 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Pfizer — Trump accuses Mueller team of secret ‘conflicts of interest’ This week: Senate tees off net neutrality showdown MORE (Maine). That gives Democrats 50 votes in favor.

If Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSenate GOP warms to Trump’s rescissions package HBO announces date, title for McCain documentary Hatch apologizes to McCain for funeral comments MORE (R-Ariz.), who is battling brain cancer, misses the vote, the resolution could pass 50-49.

Even if it has the votes in the Senate, though, a net neutrality CRA is unlikely to pass in the House.

Some business groups expressed support for the Democratic effort to keep net neutrality regulations in place.

Reddit, Tinder, Tumblr and other major websites prominently displayed “Red Alert” for net neutrality banners on their websites urging users to call lawmakers and voice their support for the regulations.

“We support the Congressional Review Act resolution that would restore the rules codified by the 2015 Open Internet Order,”  said Kevin Martin, vice president of U.S. public policy at Facebook.

“We also stand ready to work with any policymakers on a framework that will protect the open internet.”