Senate rebukes Trump administration, votes to reinstate net neutrality

Republicans Susan Collins, John Kennedy and Lisa Murkowski all sided with Democrats.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during the Senate Democrats' news conference to officially file petition to force a vote on net neutrality. CREDIT: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during the Senate Democrats' news conference to officially file petition to force a vote on net neutrality. CREDIT: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Senate Democrats delivered a small victory to grassroots internet activists on Wednesday when they voted to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of net neutrality.

Three Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins (ME), John Kennedy (LA), and Lisa Murkowski (AK), joined with 47 Democrats and two independents (Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine) to pass the measure.

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Sen. Amy Kloubacher (D-MN) called the reversal an “amazing victory for consumers, small businesses and rural communities.”

Ever since the FCC decided to repeal net neutrality in December, thereby allowing corporations like Verizon and AT&T unprecedented control over users’ internet experience, there has been massive push-back. Twenty-two state attorneys general have announced plans to sue the FCC to preserve net neutrality, while activists have seized on the repeal as a chance to start building their own grassroots internet networks.

Senate Democrats have clearly tapped into the idea that net neutrality is a major issue for younger, more progressive voters — in a December poll by the University of Maryland, more than 80 per cent of respondents said they opposed the FCC’s repeal.  Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has retweeted several meme-friendly, pro-net neutrality messages this week, while Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) tweeted on Monday about using Instagram to post about net neutrality.

“Net Neutrality has the potential to motivate young and progressive voters to turn out in the midterms,” DCCC spokesman Tyler Law said in a statement. “We certainly welcome their support, as well as all privacy-and-liberty-loving Americans who recognize that the Republican Party has abandoned these fundamental values.”

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There’s still a long way to go before net neutrality is reinstated, however. Democrats now need to take the bill to the House, where it requires 218 votes, but only 160 Democrats to back the measure. If it passed the House, the bill would then move to Trump’s desk, who has the ability to veto it.

Nonetheless, Senate Democrats’ uniform support shows how the party is adopting an increasingly bold progressive stance ahead of November’s midterm elections. In addition to their support for net neutrality rules, Schumer announced plans to decriminalize marijuana at a federal level, while Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has repeatedly spoken out against mass incarceration.

This post has been updated to reflect the fact that Sen. Amy Kloubacher represents Minnesota, not Michigan.