Months before the midterm election, Republicans will now either have to defend the repeal of net neutrality rules or dissent with President Trump.
On Tuesday, Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) announced on Twitter that he and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) have now gathered enough support to force a Congressional Review Act (CRA) vote on the FCC’s recent controversial decision to repeal rules put in place to safeguard net neutrality.
A big step toward restoring a free and open Internet: with the support of @clairecmc, we now have the 30 votes we need to force a vote on my CRA to reverse the repeal of #NetNeutrality! pic.twitter.com/gXtWQmeIJS
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) January 8, 2018
Under the CRA, Congress is allowed to vote on a joint resolution of disapproval following any decision made by a federal agency, like the FCC, if at least 30 members of the U.S. Senate co-sponsor the resolution. The vote has to come within 60 legislative working days of the agency decision, which would give Congress a deadline of May 22 to vote on a CRA resolution.
Even though President Trump still has to sign the CRA resolution in order to reverse the FCC’s net neutrality ruling (which he is unlikely to do), the vote itself will force Republicans in Congress running to keep their jobs in a critical midterm election year into an uncomfortable position. As of December, 83 percent of Americans favor a free and open internet.
This means Republicans will either have to defend the FCC’s unpopular decision and anger their constituents, or risk being disloyal to Trump and opposing it. The upcoming vote could have significant political consequences, especially considering polls that show Democrats poised for a wave of victories in November.
If the FCC’s net neutrality ruling stands, then internet service providers (ISPs) will have unprecedented power over what content their subscribers are able to view. ISPs will be able to slow down or even censor certain websites at will, or charge higher prices for customers to view more websites.
ISPs like Verizon were heavily in favor of repealing the 2015 FCC ruling that cemented net neutrality, spending $26 million on lobbying last year. Ajit Pai, whom Trump appointed as FCC chairman after becoming president, is a former Verizon attorney.
Matthew P. Robbins is a freelance economics contributor covering wages, budgets, and taxes. He lives in Chicago, Illinois with his husband and two cats.