Senate Dems get enough co-sponsors to trigger vote on net neutrality

Senate Democrats are touting growing momentum to reinstate Obama-era net neutrality protections, though they face a steep uphill battle to pass their bill.

Democrats announced Tuesday they have 40 co-sponsors for a resolution of disapproval that would overturn a repeal of the regulations, essentially guaranteeing them a procedural vote on the floor.

“Millennials are energized,” Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who’s leading the effort, said at a news conference. “They know the loss of net neutrality means the loss of control of the internet, which is oxygen to them. We cannot let that happen.”

The Republican-led Federal Communications Commission voted last month to repeal the regulations, which mandate that internet service providers treat all online content the same.

Critics of the rules argue they’re too damaging to broadband investments and innovation. Proponents say they keep the internet open and fair because internet service providers can’t deliberately speed up or slow down traffic from specific websites or apps, nor can they put their own content at an advantage over that of rivals.

Given the interest in net neutrality among young voters, Democrats are attempting to seize on the debate as November’s midterm elections draw closer. “It will be a major issue in the 2018 campaigns,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, predicted Tuesday.

Senate Democrats are using the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to roll back regulatory actions by the executive branch, in their attempt to reverse the repeal. It’s an effort that will take months. The FCC must first publish its final rule in the Federal Register. After that, Markey has 60 days to introduce his resolution of disapproval, which requires 30 co-sponsors to move to the floor.

Once it gets to the floor, it would go through a motion to proceed, which requires a simple majority of 51 votes. Since Republicans have a 51-49 majority, they could kill the bill if they all vote against it. To pass it, Democrats would need two Republicans to cross over to support the motion to proceed — and that’s assuming all Democrats vote for it.

If Democrats win and the bill gets beyond the motion to proceed, the resolution would again need 51 votes to pass in a final Senate vote.

A similar effort must happen on the House side, where Republicans also are in control. After all that, the measure would head to the President.

“The Trump administration supports the FCC’s efforts to roll back burdensome, monopoly-era regulations,” said Hogan Gidley, the deputy white house press secretary.