Senate passes measure repealing changes to net neutrality rules

The Senate voted Wednesday to pass a measure that would repeal changes to net neutrality rules that were recently adopted by the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission.

The measure, which was backed by all 49 Democrats and Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John Kennedy of Louisiana, will be sent to the GOP-led House, where it'll likely go nowhere -- and President Donald Trump is unlikely to back it.

While Collins' support had been public leading up to the vote, Murkowski's and Kennedy's "yes" votes came as a surprise to some.

After the vote, Murkowski described herself as "frustrated" by the politics of the net neutrality debate that she says hurts her large and rural state, which has unique internet needs.

"I voted to hopefully get beyond the politics on this, which is the seesaw back and forth between Republican FCC and a Democratic FCC that doesn't lend any level of certainty to the process," she told reporters.

She continued: "I'm frustrated where we are today. We've basically moved forward a measure that isn't going to become law because this President isn't going to sign it. And so we send yet another political message. When are we going to get down to the actual legislation that both sides profess we need to have?"

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Democrats used the Congressional Review Act to force a vote -- a law that allows Congress to repeal agency rules and regulations on a simple majority vote, instead of a 60-vote threshold needed to break procedural hurdles on most legislation, the kinds of traditional roadblocks where Senate leadership could typically hold up such a proposal.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke after the vote to begin debate earlier Wednesday, arguing that "at stake is the future of the internet."

"That fundamental equality of access is what has made the internet so dynamic," he said on the Senate floor. "Net neutrality protected everyone ... that era, the era of an open Internet, will unfortunately soon come to an end."

He continued: "The Democratic position is very simple. Let's treat the internet like the public good that it is."

After the vote, a group of Democratic lawmakers from the House and Senate had a news conference praising the passage of the measure in the Senate.

"The House Republicans don't have to choose the same path that the vast majority of Senate Republicans in the Senate chose," Schumer said during the news conference. "(House Speaker Paul Ryan) should bring this resolution up for a vote immediately because it's too important of an issue to shelf. The American people have spoken and the American people should listen."

Later, Rep. Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat who represents Silicon Valley, said she was happy by the result in the Senate with the legislation.

"I think that this is the most exciting day of this year for us," she said smiling at the press conference.

Schumer responded, "low bar" and the lawmakers laughed.

Eshoo responded: "Well we have a lot more to come, but so far, very good."

The FCC voted in December to repeal Obama-era protections. The net neutrality rules, approved by the same organization two years earlier, prohibited internet service providers -- such as Comcast and Verizon -- from speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps.

Democrats argued the new FCC rules give too much power to internet service providers, which they fear will throttle down speeds for some websites and services while ramping it up for others who pay more.

Schumer said in an earlier statement, "The repeal of net neutrality is not only a blow to the average consumer, but it is a blow to public schools, rural Americans, communities of color and small businesses. A vote against this resolution will be a vote to protect large corporations and special interests, leaving the American public to pay the price."

While Democrats recognize they are unlikely to reverse the FCC's rule, they see the issue as a key policy desire that energizes their base voters, a top priority ahead of the midterm elections.