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Nancy Pelosi joins House and Senate Democrats launching new push to restore net neutrality

Legislation expected to move quickly in the House

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are pushing legislation to restore net neutrality. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are pushing legislation to restore net neutrality. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House Democratic majority intends to move quickly on legislation that would revive and codify net neutrality, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday.

Joined by Democrats from both chambers including Pelosi and top party leaders, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. said the bill would be a priority for his committee. It would codify the 2015 open internet order from the Federal Communications Commission during the Obama administration, which was rolled back after President Donald Trump took office.

“We’re not talking about a machine. We’re not talking about a piece of equipment. We’re talking about what the country stands for, and so when we talk about saving the internet, we’re talking about saving the marketplace, we’re talking about saving our democracy,” the New Jersey Democrat said. “It’s that important an issue, net neutrality.”

“The FCC is supposed to be an independent agency, and they were under previous administrations, but they are not now,” Pallone said.

Pelosi said the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology would be holding hearings next week. Markups are expected to follow in both the subcommittee and the full committee before the new bill heads to the House floor.

“In a matter of weeks, we will act upon this,” the California Democrat said.

Republicans argue that the approach taken by the House and Senate Democrats using the Communications Act, is too much of a blunt instrument.

“Republicans and Democrats agree, a free and open internet is fundamental to our society,” Republican Energy and Commerce leaders Greg Walden of Oregon, Bob Latta of Ohio and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington said in a joint statement. “Right now, without Title II, the internet remains a key driver of economic growth. Let’s come together to ensure that continues, because all sides want a permanent solution. Instead of looking to the extremes, and discarding twenty years of bipartisan consensus, we can come together on shared principles to address blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.”

Senate Democrats in attendance expressed hope that action in the House, which is also being led by Pennsylvania Democrat Mike Doyle, who chairs the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, will reinvigorate activists who support net neutrality and prompt a new national debate.

Nancy Pelosi becoming speaker and taking over the House of Representatives has breathed new life into the battle for an open internet,” Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell said. “I think we’re going to find out, as we already did in the Senate, that we’re pretty unified on our side of the aisle, that we believe that protecting consumers from price-gouging on the internet, a vital tool for communication today, is essential.”

Cantwell was speaking of the Senate vote last May to pass a joint resolution of disapproval of the FCC’s rollback of the Obama-era regulations. (That was a limited instrument, however, that qualified for expedited consideration in the chamber without the possibility of a GOP-led filibuster.)

The Republican majority in the House last year did not consider the resolution from Massachusetts Sen. Edward J. Markey. This term’s larger Senate Republican majority, and the likely need for 60 votes, makes the fight all the more difficult in 2019.

Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Kennedy of Louisiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted with Democratic Conference members in favor of Markey’s disapproval measure.

“Last year we sent a message on net neutrality to Donald Trump, and today we send another: this Congress won’t fall to his special-interest agenda and his broadband baron allies,” Markey said Wednesday. “We are on the right side of history, and we will not give up this fight. It begins today, and this coalition will not stop until we win.”

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