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House Republicans vote to block FCC net neutrality rules

The U.S. House Communications Subcommittee voted 15 to 8 last week to block the FCC’s new network neutrality rules. All 15 supporting votes were cast by Republicans, while all dissenting votes were Democrat. Three Democrats, Reps. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, Bobby Rush of Illinois and Karen Bass of California, did not vote.

The vote came after a hearing last week on the joint resolution (J.HR 37) of disapproval, a legislative mechanism for blocking agency actions by Congress. While the resolution easily passed the Republican-controlled House, it is not expected to be approved by the Senate, which is under Democrat control. In order to go the president, it must pass both bodies.

“This is a destructive resolution that threatens openness and innovation on the Internet,” said former Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-CA, at the hearing. “Instead of protecting the consumer, this action will tie the hands of the FCC and give broadband network operators a green light to block from consumers any applications, content and services they choose to block.

S. Derek Turner, research director of the Free Press Action Fund, who testified at the hearing, called the resolution a “solution in search of a problem.”

Following the vote, he said, “We are deeply disappointed that Congress has chosen to move forward with this dangerous overreach that would hamstring the FCC and leave Internet users unprotected from discrimination online. If this resolution becomes law, companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon will have free rein to censor free speech or block access to any website.”

Republicans on the subcommittee argued that the FCC exceeded its authority by imposing the new net neutrality regulations. During the markup, the Republicans passed on opening statements to get on with the vote on the single-paragraph resolution.

House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-OR, dismissed several Democrat amendments based on what he said was “non-germaneness” not long after they were introduced.