Democratic leaders will turn the tables on Republicans by making them take a stand on internet freedom, and using a favorite Republican trick to do it.
The American people aren’t taking the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of Obama-era net neutrality regulations lying down, and neither are Democrats.
Shortly after the party-line vote to repeal the regulations, which prevent internet service providers from blocking or slowing content, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer promised to force a Senate vote on blocking the decision, using a favorite Republican legislative tool to do it.
The Congressional Review Act of 1996 (CRA) gives Congress 60 working days to review new agency regulations, and to overturn them with a simple majority. At a press conference in New York, Schumer told reporters that he could use the CRA to force a vote to block the repeal with a simple 51-vote majority, using the same law that Republicans relied on to wipe out many Obama-era regulations:
“One, this CRA doesn’t need the support of the majority leader,” Schumer noted. “We can bring it to the floor and force a vote. So, there will be a vote to repeal the rule that the FCC passed.”
“It’s in our power to do that and that’s the beauty of the CRA rule,” he continued. “Sometimes we don’t like them, when they used it to repeal some of the pro-environmental regulations, but now we can use the CRA to our benefit, and we intend to.”
The CRA was masterminded by then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in 1996, but until this year it was only successfully used once. Since Trump took office, however, Republicans have used the CRA to repeal 15 rules.
In addition to a simple majority, a CRA repeal also needs the president’s signature, a tall order unless the White House is changing hands.
The genius of Schumer’s move, though, is that he doesn’t have to win in order to succeed. As The Hill notes, even if Democrats prevail in the Senate, if House Speaker Paul Ryan could be convinced to bring the measure up for a vote, and if it passed the House, Donald Trump would still need to sign it.
But forcing a vote would put Republicans on the spot to defend an incredibly unpopular decision, just when their majority is looking its shakiest. At worst, Democrats would gain a powerful political tool going into the midterms.
On a less cynical note, however, Schumer could easily peel off a couple of Republican votes. That would put incredible pressure on House Republicans, considering even people in red districts like a free and open internet.
As actor Mark Hamill demonstrated this weekend, the Force is with the vast majority of Americans. It’s time to find out who the Republicans are with.