WASHINGTON, May 16, 2018 — The absence of Arizona Senator John McCain (R) from the Senate means Democrats appear to have enough votes to pass a bill to roll back the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of network neutrality rules put in place under the Obama administration, 50-49.
Without McCain, who remains at home in Arizona while undergoing treatment for brain cancer, the Senate’s 49 Democrats can count on 50 votes thanks to the support of Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, for S.J. Res. 52, a so-called resolution of disapproval making use of procedures laid out under the 1996 Congressional Review Act to roll back rules the FCC approved in December to repeal regulations put in place under then-chairman Tom Wheeler (D).
Those regulations, formally known as net neutrality rules, prohibit broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon from interfering with users’ internet traffic or prioritizing some traffic over others. Under Wheeler, the FCC did this by classifying broadband internet access services as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. Their repeal was a priority for the current Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who has long opposed strong net neutrality protections.
Collins was instrumental in getting Democrats’ bill to the floor
Collins’ support for the bill allowed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to force his Republican counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to bring the Democrat-sponsored bill to the floor using a rarely-used parliamentary maneuver called a discharge petition.
Although Senate rules normally require that 2/3 of the Senate vote in favor of ending debate on a bill before it can receive an up-or-down vote, resolutions under the Congressional Review Act resolutions cannot be filibustered, meaning the measure could pass with a majority vote rather than the de-facto 60-vote threshold that has become the norm thanks to both sides’ increased use of the fillibuster in recent years.
Passage will be a victory for Senate Dems, but the effort’s future beyond that is unclear
Pelosi’s skill at holding her caucus together will be key as the fight moves to the House of Representatives, where Democrats face an uphill battle in gathering enough Republican support to force House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., to hold a vote on a companion to Markey’s bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa.
While the bill’s passage would represent a major — and rare — victory for a Democratic caucus that has struggled to make headway against President Donald Trump’s efforts to roll back Obama-era regulations, it would also be a rare rebuke to Trump, who has made what his former strategist Steve Bannon called “deconstruction of the administrative state” a major priority.
While Trump has relished the opportunity to sign 15 CRA resolutions since he took office last year — more than all other presidents combined — it’s not known whether he’d sign a 16th if it would restore a regulation promulgated under his predecessor.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was noncommittal last week when asked if President Trump would be amenable to allowing the Democrat-backed bill to become law.
“We’ll keep you posted when we have a specific policy announcement on that front,” she said.
Making Trump’s approval more unlikely is the fact that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave FCC Chairman Pai’s efforts to roll back the Obama-era net neutrality rules the White House’s imprimatur last year during a July press briefing.
“We support the FCC chair’s efforts to review and consider rolling back these rules, and believe that the best way to get fair rules for everyone is for Congress to take action and create regulatory and economic certainty,” she said.
The future remains clouded but Democrats will still celebrate
Nevertheless, Democrats are planning to enjoy the rare opportunity to strut a bit by holding a press conference after the Senate finishes voting today at around 3 this afternoon, which a source close to Markey said would also serve to highlight House Democrats’ ongoing efforts.
Those expected to speak include Markey, along with Minority Leader Schumer, Sens. Maria Cantwell and Brian Schatz of Washington and Hawaii, respectively.
They will also be joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., along with Doyle and Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., who are leading the effort to bring Doyle’s bill to the House floor.
While the Senate effort was made more urgent because of a need to pass Markey’s bill before the end of a 60-day period during which it could be considered, House Democrats have until the end of the 115th Congress’ second session to finish the job.
(creative commons photo: President Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.)
Flake, Raskin Push Back On Trump’s Attacks Against Immigrants as Un-American
WASHINGTON, June 24, 2018 — Members of Congress on Sunday hit back at President Trump’s most recent anti-immigrant rhetoric. Trump’s suggestions that immigrants and asylum seekers should not be entitled to due process as inconsistent with American values and a repudiation of the idea of the United States as a nation under the rule of law, said a Republican and a Democratic critic.
Trump’s latest outburst against the idea that immigrants deserve the protections of due process came in a Sunday morning tweet, in which the president declared: “We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country.”
“When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came,” Trump continued, adding that the current system is “a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order.”
Trump has railed against the idea that immigrants and asylum seekers should be entitled to have their case heard before an impartial immigration judge on several occasions since a Tuesday speech to members of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, during which he said he wanted “border security, not judges.”
Sen. Jeff Flake rebukes Trump; says it’s not ‘reflective of who we are’
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., characterized Trump’s recent talk of an “invasion” and his and his surrogates’ talk of immigrants as an “infestation” as consistent with his rhetoric on immigrants dating back to 2015, when the then-candidate kicked off his campaign for the presidency by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and accusing them of bringing crime and drugs.
“It’s all been rhetoric that’s not welcoming and reflective of who we are as a country,” said Flake, who announced that he’d retire from the Senate after this year.
Flake has become one of only a select few Republicans in Congress to regularly criticize the president and his regular attacks on the press and the ideas of democracy and the rule of law.
Flake, who spoke to BeltwayBreakfast by phone Sunday afternoon, was even more emphatic in his denunciation of Trump’s suggestion that immigrants are not entitled to due process.
“The hallmark of our country is the rule of law, and to say to those asylum seekers — ‘the huddled masses yearning to breathe free’ — that we’re not going to consider an asylum application, that’s not who we are,” Flake said.
Is there a constitutional law professor in the House? Yes, Rep. Jamie Raskin.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, a first-term Maryland Democrat who teaches constitutional law at American University, was even more critical of the president’s recent attacks on immigrant communities and the rule of law in a separate phone interview with BeltwayBreakfast, in which he declared that Trump “is trashing the American dream.”
“The president has declared war on due process within the immigration system,” said Raskin, who noted that the United States’ obligations to treat asylum seekers with respect and allow them their day in court come not only from American law, but from the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, to which the United States is a signatory.
“How are we going to live up to our obligations under international law and the constitution if we don’t have judges to sort it out?” he asked.
“[Trump] just wants to build a wall and a moat and put up barbed wire, and that’s a complete betrayal of what America is as a nation founded as a haven for refuge for people fleeing violence and oppression,” he added, concluding that the president “essentially wants to turn us into a tyrannical state ourselves.”
Raskin noted that immigration judges are not just bureaucratic functionaries or cogs in a deportation machine, but “real judges” who are supposed to follow the law and fairly adjudicate claims of asylum under U.S. immigration and asylum law.
Robbing Central and South American immigrants of their due process rights
He hit back at the Trump’s increasingly vicious anti-immigrant rhetoric and apparent desire to rob Central and South American immigrants of the due process rights guaranteed them under the constitution as hypocritical considering the president’s own family history.
“Despite the fact that the president’s family, like all of our families, came here from somewhere else, and despite the fact that he has married people who are not U.S. citizens, he seems to want to treat all immigrants to this country like criminals.”
As for Trump’s description of immigrants as “invaders,” Raskin said it was more of the same from a president who has consistently refused to repudiate the white nationalists and other racists who’ve openly embraced his presidency as if one of their own had ascended to the White House.
“This administration began with a sinister relationship to the alt-right and racist movements around the world, and the president has never shed these associations,” Raskin said.
“America is not defined today by a principle of race or ethnicity or blood or religion. America is defined by our constitutional values and the dream of a society where everybody can make it who works hard and believes in the country.”
Democrats Mourn Loss of Net Neutrality, But Industry Supporters Call it a New Day
WASHINGTON, June 12, 2018 – As the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of Obama-era network neutrality rules took effect Monday, Democrats and net neutrality advocates vowed to continue the effort to use a Congressional Review Act resolution to roll back the new FCC rules.
“There will be no eulogy today for net neutrality,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., a longtime network neutrality advocate and a member of the Senate Commerce Committee.
“The FCC will not have the last word when it comes to net neutrality, the American people will,” he said. “The fight to restore net neutrality rules has new urgency today and moving forward as we continue to work in the House of Representatives to repeal the FCC’s terrible decision.”
Markey urged House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to call for a floor vote on a companion bill to the CRA resolution passed by the Senate last month. The CRA measure, if it passed both chambers and were signed by the president, would void the laissez-faire “regulations” promulgated by the FCC in December 2017, under agency Chairman Ajit Pai.
‘An overwhelming majority of Americans’ support net neutrality, say Democratic legislators
The sponsor of that companion CRA bill, Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., noted that “an overwhelming majority of Americans” support network neutrality despite the FCC’s refusal to follow public sentiment, but that it was “still possible” to save the policy by passing his resolution.
“The Senate has voted to overturn the FCC order that killed off net neutrality,” Doyle said. “Now the House must do the same.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., slammed Ryan’s refusal to bring the Markey-Doyle resolution to the House floor.
“By refusing to bring up the Senate-passed resolution to restore net neutrality, which passed the Senate by a powerful bipartisan vote, House Republican leaders gave a green light to the big ISPs to charge middle-class Americans, small business owners, schools, rural Americans, and communities of color more to use the internet,” Schumer said, adding that the entire Senate Democratic Caucus had sent Ryan a letter urging him to move Doyle’s bill forward.
Schumer said that Republicans, except of the three GOP Senators who sided with the Democrats, were choosing large corporations and special interests over American families.
“Every Republican who opposed this vote will own any and all of the damaging consequences of the FCC’s horribly misguided decision,” he warned.
Pai publishes an op-ed arguing that the ‘Restoring Internet Freedom Order’ will restore internet freedom
Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai defended his agency’s repeal of Obama-era network neutrality rules in an op-ed for C-Net. He said the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” will only improve the internet for users.
“Under the Federal Communications Commission’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which takes effect Monday, the internet will be just such an open platform. Our framework will protect consumers and promote better, faster internet access and more competition,” Pai wrote.
Pai attempted to bolster the FCC’s decision through claims that the new regulations introduces stronger transparency laws and hence more protection for the consumer.
He also lauded his agency passing power to the Federal Trade Commission for enforcement actions.
“Our approach includes strong consumer protections,” Paid said. “For example, we empower the Federal Trade Commission to police internet service providers for anticompetitive acts and unfair or deceptive practices. In 2015, the FCC stripped the FTC – the nation’s premier consumer protection agency – of its authority over internet service providers.
“This was a loss for consumers and a mistake we have reversed. Starting Monday, the FTC will once again be able to protect Americans consistently across the internet economy, and the FCC will work hand-in-hand with our partners at the FTC to do just that.”
Internet Innovation Alliance on defending the need for new laws on neutrality and privacy
The Internet Innovation Alliance, a coalition of business and non-profit organizations under leadership of Former Congressman Rick Boucher, D-Va., also defended the new laws.
The IIA issued a statement of support for today’s decision, calling it “the right decision” for consumers, investors, and “for the internet itself, as the internet will once again be subject to the rules under which it grew and flourished for nearly 20 years.”
Despite expressing support for the FCC’s rollback of Title II regulations, the IIA’s statement also addressed fears that the repeal of net neutrality —will empower internet service providers to discriminate against certain websites or services.
“But as grateful as we are for the Commission’s action and today’s implementation, we cannot rest here. The broadband internet is too important to our national life,” read the statement.
“We once again call on Congress to pass, this year, a law protecting the core principles of an open internet – no blocking, no throttling, no censorship, no unfair discrimination based on online content – and including robust consumer privacy protections that apply to all entities in the internet ecosystem and no matter how consumers access the internet.
“Only that action can settle the issue permanently and ensure that the principles of a truly open internet will have the force of statutory law,” IIA said.
(Photo collage of Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., upper left; Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., upper right; former Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., lower right; and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, lower left.)
Senate Votes 52-47 To Advance Bill Restoring Obama-era Net Neutrality Rules
WASHINGTON, May 16, 2018 — Senate Democrats on Wednesday joined forces with Republicans Susan Collins, John Kennedy, R-La. and Lisa Murkowski, R-Ak. to approve a bill which rolls back the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of network neutrality rules enacted under former President Obama, 52-47
The bill, S.J. Res. 52, is a so-called resolution of disapproval which uses procedures laid out under the Congressional Review Act to prevent the FCC’s repeal of regulations, commonly known as net neutrality rules, which prohibit broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon from interfering with users’ internet traffic or prioritizing some traffic over others.
“Today the Senate took the most important vote on the internet in its history, and the American people won,” said the bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. “It is a victory…for every family in America, it is a victory for our economy, and for our democracy.”
Markey thanked Collins, Kennedy and Murkowski for their votes, noting that the result “could not have happened without them.” He then added that the Senate vote “puts the House on notice,” giving House Republicans a choice between “standing with the American people, or with President Donald Trump and his “cronies”
Repeal of net neutrality rules, a priority of President Trump, still looms
Pai’s push to roll back the Title II protections made him a key player in implementing Trump’s efforts to roll back Obama-era regulations, and put the FCC — traditionally the province of technology and telecommunications geeks and wonks — firmly in the public spotlight.
The Senate’s vote to roll back Pai’s is also a rare rebuke to Trump, who has made what his former strategist Steve Bannon called “deconstruction of the administrative state” a major priority.
Democrats had the 51 votes needed to pass Markey’s bill earlier today
Although most legislation requires 60 Senators to vote to end debate on a bill before it can receive an up-or-down majority vote, resolutions under the Congressional Review Act, which was passed by the Republican-led Congress in 1996 and signed by then-President Bill Clinton, cannot be filibustered, meaning only 51 votes were required for passage in the Senate.
While Republicans have a 51-49 advantage in the Senate, Collins’ support made today’s result all-but-assured because Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., remains at home undergoing treatment for brain cancer.
Kennedy and Murkowski were the only two Republicans to vote for the bill other than Collins, whose support was also crucial in allowing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to force his Republican counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to bring the Democrat-sponsored bill to the floor using a rarely-used parliamentary maneuver called a discharge petition.
Democrats still have work to do but the final outcome is still uncertain
Even with today’s result, House Democrats must still garner enough Republican signatures for a discharge petition of their own, though they have until the end of the 115th Congress’ second session to do so. If both chambers pass the bill, the joint resolution would still require the president’s assent — with or without his signature — for it to become law.
While President Donald Trump has signed 15 CRA resolutions since taking office, those have repealed regulations promulgated in the waning days of the previous administration. It is unclear whether Trump would allow a 16th to become law if doing so restored a regulation enacted under his predecessor.
When asked last week if President Trump would be amenable to such a resolution, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was noncommittal.
“We’ll keep you posted when we have a specific policy announcement on that front,” she said.