While the public overwhelmingly supports Net Neutrality, the issue has remained deeply partisan inside the Beltway. However, we were able to force a vote on a resolution of disapproval and get members of Congress on the record.
By doing so, we got three Republicans to cross the party line and reject the false narrative that all government regulation is bad for business — when we know just how important rules are for protecting not just individual rights and safety but competitive businesses’ bottom lines.
So where do we go next?
Industry lobbyists and some journalists have claimed that the bill to revive Net Neutrality is DOA in the House — but that’s simply not true. Skeptics have said time and time again that the fight for Net Neutrality is over. And we keep proving them wrong.
While the House does not have the same procedural mechanism that allowed us to force a vote in the Senate, there is still a way to move the CRA forward. We just need to get over half of the members (218) to sign a discharge petition to force the bill to the floor.
And the good news is we are well on our way, with more than 170 members signed on to support the CRA.
But … the Republicans
It’s true that Republicans in D.C. have opposed real Net Neutrality protections for about a decade now, but the party is going through difficult times. Hitching its wagon to a president with record-low approval ratings and record-high scandals has taken its toll on the rank and file.
And with the House leadership up in the air following Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to leave Congress after the current term, the party that formed a solid block against President Obama is showing serious signs of fracturing.
A recent piece in Axios, Paul Ryan’s House Is Collapsing, lays out some of the significant challenges the current majority party faces. The Trump backlash has members facing the toughest races of their political careers. And a lame-duck speaker is struggling to keep the rest of his House ducks in a row.
Another discharge petition, aimed at forcing a vote on immigration, has gotten significant Republican support despite pleas from majority leadership to oppose it. And the Tea Party Republicans just derailed the farm bill, considered a must-pass piece of legislation.
And we have seen Republicans buck their party and vote in support of internet-user protections in the past.
In March 2017, 15 Republicans in the House voted against a bill to keep the broadband-privacy rules put in place by the FCC in 2016, even as most Republicans voted to tear down those rules. And many of those who cast that anti-privacy vote felt serious heat when they faced their constituents at home, as well as billboards that accused them of selling out the public for telecom money.
Eliminating a free and open Internet for the AT&Ts and Comcasts of the world might not be the hill that vulnerable Republicans want to die on.
To be sure, the fight for the House vote will be hard, but it’s by no means impossible. Net Neutrality is wildly popular across the political spectrum and Republicans who are honest with themselves know that. They don’t want this to be another talking point for their Democratic challengers and the #resistance.
It’s still a tough fight, but we know that can win. And we think that we will, thanks to your help.