Democrats say they have the votes to force a vote in the Senate on Wednesday for a measure to restore net neutrality, which is being eliminated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says all 49 Democratic caucus members will vote for the measure, along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.). Because Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is ill and will not be present to vote, Schumer believes the measure will pass 50-49.
“The repeal of net neutrality is not only a blow to the average consumer, but it is a blow to public schools, rural Americans, communities of color and small businesses,” Schumer said.
Vote mostly symbolic
Though the Senate is likely to vote to restore net neutrality, that may be as far as it goes. The House, with a large GOP majority, is unlikely to bring the measure up for a vote. Should the measure somehow make it to President Trump's desk, he's unlikely to sign it since he is on the record as agreeing with the FCC's action.
But Schumer says the Senate vote will not be a wasted effort. He believes the issue will energize Democratic voters in the midterm elections and help the party capture seats currently held by Republicans.
“A vote against this resolution will be a vote to protect large corporations and special interests, leaving the American public to pay the price,” Schumer said.
“There is nowhere to hide, and there are no excuses. You are either for a free and open internet or you are not,” said Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Ranking Democrat on the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet. “This bill will get every member of the Senate on the record as either supporting or opposing net neutrality.”
Repeal is a long process
In December, the FCC voted to overturn a regulation put in place in 2015, codifying net neutrality as official policy. The policy said internet service providers (ISP) had to treat all content the same. It couldn't favor one type over another or charge some content providers more than others.
The FCC's new regulation, effectively eliminating net neutrality as the internet's governing policy, has still not taken effect, providing Democrats this narrow opening. The FCC cannot finalize its new rule until it submits it to the Office of Management and Budget for formal approval.
Next, the FCC is also required to provide a timeline for the new policy to go into effect. That process may be complicated by Washington and several other states, which have drawn up their own net neutrality laws.