Senate May Demand Net Neutrality Return, But To No Avail

Efforts to restore net neutrality rules in Congress are close to passing the first hurdle, though it seems virtually impossible they’ll have any effect.

The Federal Communications Commission recently decided by a 3-2 vote to drop its previous rules upholding the principles of net neutrality. A resolution against that decision now has the backing of 50 Senators, meaning one more would be enough to ensure a pass. (A tie would mean a casting vote by Vice-President Mike Pence, almost certainly against the resolution.)

However, reports that this means just one more Senator could overturn the FCC decision are a major exaggeration. This specific attempt to restore net neutrality is being done through the Congressional Review Act. That’s a system that gives Congress 60 legislative days (those on which it actually sits) to block a federal agency regulation before it takes effect.

Under this process, the block has to be confirmed by both houses. As with legislation, the President can then veto the measure (meaning the regulations would be able to take effect) unless there’s a 2/3 majority vote in both houses against him doing so.

In other words, even if the resolution passes the Senate, the political divide means it’s unlikely to pass the House of Representatives. If it did so, previous comments suggest President Donald Trump would veto it.

While this tactic is likely doomed, it’s a fight that will likely continue in both Congress and the courts. Even after the regulations take effect, they could be overridden by a specific net neutrality law passed by Congress. That’s unlikely to happen unless and until both the make-up of Congress and the Presidency changes.

Meanwhile several groups have vowed court action to overturn the FCC decision because of alleged failings in the decision-making process. One arguments cites a convention that agencies cannot completely overturn a policy they’ve already made simply because of a change in political leadership. Another says the consultation process before the decision was flawed because of claims of widespread fake comments supposedly from the public.

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