The fight continues as it heads to the House. A spirited campaign by Democratic lawmakers to save net neutrality has passed the Senate, moving one step closer toward forestalling its scheduled demise on June 11th. The vote was predictably close along party lines: In addition to every Democrat supporting the legislation, the final 52-47 tally featured three Republican legislators, Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and John Kennedy (R-LA), voting in favor of the bill. "We don't let water companies or phone companies discriminate against customers, we don't restrict access to freeways deciding you can use them and you can't," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said before the official vote. "Are you on the side of large internet companies, or are you on the side of American families? That's what this debate is about." Of course, after its passage, this Resolution of Disapproval heads to the House of Representatives. There, Democrats need 25 Republicans to agree to force a vote, but there it would likely be shot down. Even if it succeeds, the bill would head to Trump's desk and an almost certain veto. There's a lot of work to preserve net neutrality before its repeal in June, and some dismissed the bill as insufficient and partisan. "I rise in support of net neutrality, but there are many of us who believe in codifying net neutrality, but what doesn't make sense is this legislation," said Sen. John Thune (R-SD) in the session's opening. He, among other Republicans, denounced Democrats for politicizing the issue, continuing: "Why aren't we debating a bipartisan bill instead of a partisan solution? " Democrats are happy to create bipartisan legislation, Schumer said, but it will take awhile -- the Resolution of Disapproval is a protective step in the meantime. It would halt the removal of regulations passed in 2015 to prevent internet service providers from blocking or throttling access to any site on the web.
The Senate has voted to save net neutrality, but dont get your hopes up: theres still a long, likely impossible journey ahead if the policy is to be saved in the immediate future. In a 52–47 vote today, senators voted to overturn the Federal Communication Commissions Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which took net neutrality rules off the books. They were able to do so using the Congressional Review Act, or CRA, which allows Congress to reverse recent decisions by government agencies. Republican control of Congress means that such a measure wouldnt normally even make it up for a vote; but the CRA allows senators to force a vote by obtaining 30 signatures. All 49 Democrats voted in favor, as well as Republican Senators Susan Collins, of Maine; John Kennedy, of Louisiana; and Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska. While advocates have argued that this is a step toward reinstating net neutrality, its really a long-shot attempt that seems to be meant more to get the issue back on voters minds — and to force politicians to take a position ahead of whats expected to be a tumultuous midterm election. In order for net neutrality to actually be reinstated, two more things have to happen. First, the House has to use the CRA to overturn the policy as well. Thats even harder. Instead of 30 signatures, net neutrality supporters have to collect signatures from a full majority of House members. Even if they get every single Democrat on board — and they dont have that yet — theyd still need the support of 22 Republicans. And finally, if that happened and they all voted to reverse the policy, itd still have to get signed by President Trump, who is not a fan of the policy. While its obviously an uphill battle, net neutrality advocates seem to be holding out hope that they could actually get through the House, too. Theres a degree of bipartisan agreement that something needs to be done on net neutrality. And with midterms coming up, representatives in challenging districts may be more inclined to support the popular, consumer-friendly policy. As for Trump, well, you never know exactly how hes going to wake up each day, or so the argument goes. In reality, this is more about setting up whatever comes next for net neutrality, likely a few years down the line. The general consensus at this point is that net neutrality is now out of the FCCs hands, and that Congress will have to act to reinstate some of its outgoing rules. Its not at all clear how soon thatll happen, but forcing Congress to take a vote helps to clarify the playing field and make sure its something legislators are thinking about.