After Trump's FCC Chairman Ajit Pai rammed through an order killing Net Neutrality — citing easily disproved lies, ignoring millions of public comments — activists started pinning their hopes on something called the Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress and the Senate the power to overrule the decisions of regulators from the administrative agencies like the FCC.
It's a lost cause — after the Senate passes its CRA resolution, Congress would have to follow suit and then Trump would have to go along with the gag and not veto them — but it's still a useful one, forcing lawmakers to publicly declare a position on Net Neutrality, an issue that has an improbably high recognition and approval from voters regardless of political affiliation.
That's because there's an election coming in 10 or so months, and many of these lawmakers will be vulnerable to both primary challenges and having their seats flipped. There's also a lot of potential small-money donors who'll contribute to lawmakers who help to overturn Pai's order.
Now the Senate Democrats have announced that they're only one GOP senator short of a successful CRA resolution, and that really puts the heat on the Senate GOP: a single vulnerable, weak lawmaker will guarantee Senate CRA, and once that happens, every GOP senator who stands behind the FCC can be attacked on their failure to take a principled Net Neutrality stand, and their backing for Pai will do nothing to stop CRA from getting out of the Senate successfully, making it a futile stand for party loyalty that exposes them to real political liability.
The Senate GOP is pushing Marsha Blackburn's (R-TX) dead-on-arrival do-nothing "Net Neutrality" bill as an alternative, but its deficits are so obvious and easy to articulate that it seems unlikely this gambit will succeed.
Republican leaders in Congress have proposed a weaker set of net neutrality rules, and want to make the FCC's deregulation of broadband permanent. As we've previously reported, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) is pushing an "Open Internet Preservation Act" that would ban blocking and throttling but allow ISPs to create paid fast lanes and prohibit state governments from enacting their own net neutrality laws. Blackburn's bill would also prohibit the FCC from imposing any type of common carrier regulations on broadband providers.
While polls show that net neutrality rules have majority support from both Democratic and Republican voters, US Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) wants Republicans to reject Markey's proposal.
"The longer this sort of thing drags out and the more it looks like Democrats might have the votes in the Senate, the harder it is to get Democrats in the Senate to work with us," Thune said last week, according to Politico.
Thune also claimed that voters generally don't care about net neutrality. "I think [Democrats] see it as a really hot political issue [that] gets their base kind of energized. But most people, if their Netflix works, I'm not sure what the argument is," Thune told Politico.
All Democrats and one Republican support net neutrality bill in Senate [Jon Brodkin/Ars Technica]
(Image: Free Press, CC-BY-SA)