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Network Neutrality

Sanders Won’t Say If Trump Will Sign Bill To Restore Obama-Era Net Neutrality Rules As FCC Prepares For Repeal

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Image from Fight for the Future used with permission.

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2018 — White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday declined to say whether President Trump would sign a bill that would reverse the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of network neutrality rules promulgated during the Obama administration.

“We’ll keep you posted when we have a specific policy announcement on that front,” Sanders said when asked if President Trump would sign a 16th Congressional Review Act resolution to reverse a December vote by the FCC which rolled back Obama-era regulations put in place under then-chairman Tom Wheeler (D).

The regulations, formally known as net neutrality or open internet 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.

Democrats are using every tool in the box to protect network neutrality

Under the Congressional Review Act, passed by the Republican-led Congress in 1996 and signed by then-President Bill Clinton, Congress can use a resolution of disapproval to repeal rules put in place by regulatory agencies like the FCC.

The bill in question, S.J. Res. 52, is a joint resolution sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and 48 other Senate Democrats along with one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Collins’ support gave the 49 Senate Democrats enough signatures to file a discharge petition, which when signed by 50 senators, invokes a parliamentary procedure to force a bill to be brought to the floor for a vote.

The rarely-used maneuver is necessary because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has not indicated any interest in bringing the resolution, but even if Democrats’ effort is successful in finding a 51st vote in the GOP-controlled Senate, caucus, a House vote on the bill is unlikely at this point.

The fight to save net neutrality also extends to the courts, where a lawsuit is pending to prevent the FCC from implementing the new rules. Both the legislative and legal efforts have taken on a new urgency for net neutrality advocates because the FCC has put in place final plans to implement the repeal.

Chairman Pai hails return to ‘bipartisan, light-touch approach’

In a statement Thursday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a longtime opponent of network neutrality protections, hailed the impending change as a return to  “the bipartisan, light-touch approach that served the online world well for nearly 20 years” while bashing the old rules as “heavy-handed” and “outdated.”

 “On June 11, we will have a framework in place that encourages innovation and investment in our nation’s networks so that all Americans, no matter where they live, can have access to better, cheaper, and faster Internet access and the jobs, opportunities, and platform for free expression that it provides,” Pai said.

“And we will embrace a modern, forward-looking approach that will help the United States lead the world in 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity.  For months, many politicians and special interests have tried to mislead the American people about the Restoring Internet Freedom Order.  Now everyone will be able to see the truth for themselves.”

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Andrew Feinberg is the Managing Editor and lead Washington Correspondent for Breakfast Media, and covers the White House, Capitol Hill, courts and regulatory agencies for BeltwayBreakfast and BroadbandBreakfast.com. He has written about policy and politics in the nation's capital since 2007.

Network Neutrality

Senate Votes 52-47 To Advance Bill Restoring Obama-era Net Neutrality Rules

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Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., speaks during a press conference last week as Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., looks on

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

The FCC’s repeal of the Obama-era net neutrality rules will take effect June 11 unless the House passes a companion bill and President Donald Trump signs the bill.
The repeal process began at the commission’s December open meeting and has been a priority for Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican and longtime opponent of strong net neutrality protections.

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.

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Congress

McCain’s Absence Means Democrats’ Net Neutrality Bill Expected To Pass 50-49

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. with President Donald Trump (R)

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

The fight to restore the Obama-era net neutrality rules will now depend on two very different politicians: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and President Trump.

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.)

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Congress

Schumer Says Senate To Vote On Overturning FCC Net Neutrality Repeal Wednesday

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.) speaks outside the White House in June 2015

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2018 — The strong network neutrality rules put in place during the Obama administration’s final months will get an up-or-down vote in the United States Senate on Wednesday when a bill to overturn the FCC’s repeal of those rules reaches the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday.

“The internet should be kept free and open like our highways, accessible and affordable to every American, regardless of ability to pay,” Schumer said in a joint statement with Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. “The repeal of net neutrality is not only a blow to the average consumer, but it is a blow to public schools, rural Americans, communities of color and small businesses. A vote against this resolution will be a vote to protect large corporations and special interests, leaving the American public to pay the price.”

The bill in question is S.J. Res. 52, a so-called resolution of disapproval, which makes use of procedures laid out under the Congressional Review Act in order to roll back rules the FCC approved in December which repealed the Obama-era regulations put in place under then-chairman Tom Wheeler (D).

The 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.

Under the CRA, which was passed by the Republican-led Congress in 1996 and signed by then-President Bill Clinton, Congress can use a joint resolution of disapproval to repeal rules put in place by regulatory agencies like the FCC. Unlike most bills, however, CRA resolutions cannot be filibustered in the Senate, meaning only 51 votes are required to pass them.

Markey urges GOP senators to side with families against ‘broadband barons’

 Markey, the bill’s lead sponsor, said passing it would send a “clear message” that senators support American families, not “not the special interest agenda of President Trump and his broadband baron allies.”

“May 16 will be the most important vote for the internet in the history of the Senate, and I call on my Republicans colleagues to join this movement and stand on the right side of digital history,” he said.

Markey’s bill already has the support of the Senate’s 49 Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

With Senate Democrats in the minority, Collins’ support has been crucial in allowing Schumer to file a discharge petition signed by 50 senators to invoke a rarely-used parliamentary procedure which forces a bill to be brought to the floor for a vote. The maneuver is necessary because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had not indicated any interest in allowing an up-or-down vote on the resolution.

Wednesday’s vote is necessary because the clock is running out on a 60-day period during which the Senate can vote on a resolution of disapproval that began when the FCC published the repeal in the Federal Register. Whether it is successful or not depends on if a 2nd Republican can be persuaded to defy a White House that has made rolling back Obama-era regulations a priority.

During a July 2017 press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave Chairman Pai’s efforts the administration’s imprimatur.

“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.

Even in a best-case scenario, Dems effort could be all for naught without Trump 

Even if Democrats’ effort is successful in finding a 51st vote in the GOP-controlled Senate, 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.

Still, even 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 as to whether Trump would sign, veto, or allow the bill to become law without his signature.

“We’ll keep you posted when we have a specific policy announcement on that front,” she said.

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