Republicans Push Fast-Track Bill to Kill Net Neutrality

While some lawmakers look for compromise, Rep. Doug Collins wants an immediate repeal of the FCC’s controversial Internet rules.

 Ethernet cables lead to a server at the Rittal stand at the 2013 CeBIT technology trade fair the day before the fair opens to visitors on March 4, 2013 in Hanover, Germany.
National Journal
April 13, 2015, 11:56 a.m.

A group of House Re­pub­lic­ans in­tro­duced a res­ol­u­tion Monday to block the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion’s net-neut­ral­ity reg­u­la­tions.

The meas­ure, au­thored by Rep. Doug Collins, a Geor­gia Re­pub­lic­an, would take ad­vant­age of a pro­ced­ur­al fast-track un­der the Con­gres­sion­al Re­view Act, al­low­ing it to by­pass Demo­crat­ic op­pos­i­tion in the Sen­ate. It would need only a simple ma­jor­ity to pass, in­stead of the usu­al 60 votes needed to over­come a fili­buster.

But it would still face an al­most cer­tain veto from Pres­id­ent Obama. Oth­er at­tempts to fast-track re­peals of reg­u­la­tions in the past have largely been un­suc­cess­ful. In an in­ter­view, Collins ar­gued that his res­ol­u­tion is not just empty sym­bol­ism.

“I think when you’re stand­ing up for the Con­sti­tu­tion, it’s not sym­bol­ic at all,” he said.

The push for a clean re­peal of the agency’s In­ter­net reg­u­la­tions comes as oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans fo­cus in­stead on try­ing to craft a bi­par­tis­an com­prom­ise on the is­sue. Sen­ate Com­merce Com­mit­tee Chair­man John Thune, House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee Chair­man Fred Up­ton, and House Com­mu­nic­a­tions and Tech­no­logy Sub­com­mit­tee Chair­man Greg Walden are work­ing on a bill that would en­act net-neut­ral­ity pro­tec­tions, while also curb­ing the FCC’s powers. None of those law­makers are back­ing the Collins meas­ure. 

The new res­ol­u­tion seems to risk push­ing Demo­crats away from the ne­go­ti­at­ing table. “In Janu­ary, Re­pub­lic­ans said they’re for net neut­ral­ity. Now they’ve flip flopped with a res­ol­u­tion chal­len­ging the FCC’s net neut­ral­ity rules,” Rep. Anna Eshoo, the top Demo­crat on the House Com­mu­nic­a­tions and Tech­no­logy Sub­com­mit­tee, said in an emailed state­ment. “What is ap­par­ent is they’re on the wrong side of his­tory.”

Collins denied that he is try­ing to un­der­cut the com­prom­ise ef­forts or that the move is likely to ali­en­ate Demo­crats. Con­gress could re­peal the FCC’s rules and then turn to work on a re­place­ment, he said.

“We’re simply say­ing that we be­lieve what the FCC did is in Con­gress’s pur­view, and not the agency’s pur­view,” he said. “If things are go­ing to change, they need to come through Con­gress, not ad­min­is­trat­ive ac­tion.”

Thir­teen Re­pub­lic­ans have signed on as co­spon­sors, in­clud­ing House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bob Good­latte, and Reps. Bob Latta and Steve Chabot. Collins said he has dis­cussed the pro­pos­al with House lead­ers and ex­pects that a Sen­ate coun­ter­part will soon be in­tro­duced.

The FCC en­acted the rules in Feb­ru­ary, and they were pub­lished in the Fed­er­al Re­gister on Monday. Un­der the Con­gres­sion­al Re­view Act, Con­gress will now have 60 days to con­sider the res­ol­u­tion of dis­ap­prov­al. After that peri­od, Con­gress could still try to re­peal the rules, but they would no longer be able to fast-track the meas­ure over Demo­crat­ic op­pos­i­tion.

The FCC’s rules aim to en­sure that users can ac­cess whatever leg­al on­line con­tent they want. They bar In­ter­net pro­viders from block­ing web­sites, throt­tling traffic, or cre­at­ing spe­cial “fast lanes” for sites that pay. Crit­ics con­sider them an un­ne­ces­sary gov­ern­ment takeover of the In­ter­net that will stifle in­vest­ment in the in­dustry.

Matt Wood, the policy dir­ect­or of ad­vocacy group Free Press, vowed that net-neut­ral­ity sup­port­ers will rally to de­feat the res­ol­u­tion.

“Once again, some mem­bers of Con­gress have sided with the phone and cable lobby and against In­ter­net users,” Wood said in a state­ment. “Their re­cycled ar­gu­ments have been so thor­oughly de­bunked it’s ri­dicu­lous that they con­tin­ue to use them.”

—This art­icle was up­dated with ad­di­tion­al com­ments. 

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