What to Watch For In the Fight Against a Government Takeover of the Internet

March 9, 2011

Today, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), is holding a hearing and vote on H.J. Res. 37, a congressional Resolution of Disapproval to overturn the FCC's controversial Internet rules.

Subcommittee consideration was postponed by a week to convene an additional hearing at the request of the committee's minority, and Chairman Walden is extending an offer to the panel's Democrats to allow for significant additional debate time on the measure, which under law cannot be amended. Protecting the Internet from government interference and regulation is a serious issue that deserves thorough debate. That is why the subcommittee has accommodated the request for an additional hearing and proposed additional debate time.
 
While the subcommittee's minority has objected to use of the Congressional Review Act to overturn these regulations, a look at the legislative history of the Act shows that it was intended for exactly this purpose. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was an original author of the provisions to overturn regulations using the Congressional Review Act, and he took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to offer a compelling explanation for this important process.
 
"We have heard a lot of talk lately about regulatory reform, and I think it is important, because there is no area in the Federal Government--and as far as that goes, State government--that causes people as much concern as regulations. They have not only had the laws to deal with, but in recent years the laws propound regulations and the regulations propound all kinds of business decisions that people have to make.
 
"Within the framework of this debate, I have tried to find a commonsense approach to how we should approach this most important area of the law, namely regulation reform.
 
"This is a reasonable, sensible approach to regulatory reform. I am happy to see that the version submitted by the majority through Senator Dole has this approach in it."
 
Using the Congressional Review Act exactly as its authors intended, Congress has an opportunity right now to block the FCC's innovation-stifling Internet rules and prohibit the agency from using other maneuvers, such as reclassifying broadband as an old-fashioned common carrier under Title II of the Act, to achieve the same controversial ends.
 
There is also historical precedence for Democrats turning to the Congressional Review Act to repeal FCC regulations. In July of 2003, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) introduced S.J. Res. 17 to reverse a June 2, 2003, FCC decision to allow media conglomerates to own more television stations and newspapers.  
What to Watch For
Will Democrats try to thwart the regulatory accountability process envisioned by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid by offering amendments, or will they accept the offer to have a meaningful debate on the issues?
Will Members vote YES on H.J. Res 37 to stop the FCC from any future attempt to reclassify broadband as an old fashioned communications service, with all the rules and regulations that come with it?
 
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