WASHINGTON, DC – At a hearing yesterday at the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on reviving net neutrality rules via legislation, the Democrats partisan approach to preserving a free and open internet hit a few speedbumps when some of their own members expressed interest in working with Republicans to find a bipartisan solution.
Several Democrats indicated they would be willing to work with Republicans on legislation, which aligns with recent efforts by Republican Leaders on the committee, including a letter sent to Chairman Pallone (D-NJ) and Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA), as well as three bills Republicans presented at a hearing last month that represent realistic menu of options to work towards bipartisan legislation.
At the hearing, Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Greg Walden said, “For four or five years I’ve had an open door. I’ve had draft legislation and I’ve public and privately offered up the opportunity to sit down and work through these things. And the idea of having three bills out there was simply to say here’s a menu of options. We didn’t expect you to cosponsor those, but we remain willing to work with you to find a bipartisan solution.”
There also appeared to be some confusion among Democratic members on what exactly their partisan legislation would achieve. Rep. Soto (D-FL) stated at the hearing the ‘Save the Internet Act’ reinstates the 2015 order and indeed covers edge providers. He said, “This would apply to everyone – edge providers and ISPs.” However, last week’s roll out of the bill made no mention of this, and the 2015 order didn’t cover edge providers. In fact, E&C Republican Leader Walden clarified that very point when questioning one of the Democrats’ witnesses.
Some Democrats seek broader net neutrality negotiation
Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), a co-sponsor of the Democratic net neutrality bill, suggested today the measure could be modified as part of a negotiation with Republicans — breaking with senior Democrats who want to fast-track House passage of the proposal.
The bill is “an opening offer as we negotiate,” Soto said at today’s Energy and Commerce legislative hearing on net neutrality. “I, for one, am open to amendments.”
The Save the Internet Act, H.R. 1644 (116), unveiled last week with 132 co-sponsors, would revive Obama-era net neutrality rules repealed by the FCC. Republicans oppose the statutory basis of the rules, saying they misapply law intended for traditional phone networks.
Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield (N.C.), who is not among the measure’s sponsors, said he understands internet service providers’ “anxiety” about the bill’s regulatory approach. Butterfield and another Democrat, Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, said they want GOP buy-in.
Energy and Commerce Republicans urged Democrats to negotiate and invite FCC commissioners to testify before any markup. But telecom subcommittee chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) indicated he’s planning a subcommittee markup this month and said Democrats are holding firm.
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GOP pushes back on net neutrality bill at testy hearing
GOP lawmakers pushed back on Democrats’ proposed net neutrality bill at a testy hearing on Tuesday, calling the legislation “extreme” and overly partisan, while saying it would be dead on arrival in the Senate.
Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce technology subcommittee, called the bill a “non-starter,” pointing out that it opens up the broadband industry to regulations that Republicans have long opposed.
“Instead of engaging with us to try to solve the problem, my colleagues have retrenched back to the most extreme position in this debate,” Latta said. “[The bill] has no chance of even passing the Senate or being signed into law.”
Republicans at the hearing repeatedly promoted a trio of bills recently introduced by Latta, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), which would reimpose some net neutrality rules without using “Title II.”
McMorris Rodgers called the bills “reasonable,” while witnesses and some Democratic lawmakers criticized them as weak on internet service providers.
Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) called the bill an “opening offer,” indicating that he and other Democrats are open to “amendments” from Republicans on the committee.
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