Congressional Republicans got exactly what they wanted when the FCC repealed net neutrality on Thursday: a regulatory rollback that didn’t require them to cast a vote in favor of a reform that 75 percent of Republican voters don’t like.
But the GOP isn’t out of the woods yet. Advocacy groups and multiple state attorneys general are planning to sue the FCC, and Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Ed Markey introduced a resolution on Friday that could force Republicans to get on the record about whether they support net neutrality or not. Markey’s maneuver is what’s called a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, which allows Congress to undo the decisions of federal agencies within 60 days of their implementation.
Markey has 20 Democratic co-sponsors signed onto the bill, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Pennsylvania Democrat Mike Doyle introduced a companion measure in the House. For Markey to get his resolution on net neutrality onto the Senate floor for a vote, he only needs 30 supporting votes lined up; the actual Senate and House votes on the resolution will likely happen in February or early March.
This will present a major dilemma for Republicans, because 73 percent of their own voters supported the Obama-era net neutrality reforms that prevented telecoms from throttling connection speeds or otherwise limiting how consumers get to use the internet. FCC chairman Ajit Pai, a Trump appointee, and other Republicans argue that the rules slowed down broadband infrastructure investment, an assertion contested by pretty much everyone else.
If forced to vote, however, the GOP will likely fall in line behind Trump (who has veto power) and Pai, and the resolution will likely bring back painful memories of a similar vote from this past spring.
Back in March, the Republicans rammed another resolution through the House that undid an Obama administration reform that prevented broadband internet providers from selling customer information to third-parties. The bill received wide backlash and only barely passed before being signed into law by Trump.
With the headaches of trying to fund the government for next year, passing a hugely unpopular tax reform bill stocked with corporate giveaways, and lining up major cuts to Social Security and Medicare — Republicans probably aren’t looking forward to going on the record against yet another popular government policy.
“Our Republicans colleagues have a choice,” said Sen. Markey in a press release announcing the CRA resolution. “Be on the right side of history and stand with the American people who support net neutrality, or hold hands with the big cable and broadband companies who only want to supercharge their profits at the expense of consumers and our economy.”