More than a dozen Democratic senators called publicly Wednesday for reinstating net neutrality protections, and moved to force a vote on the proposal.
The issue galvanizes Democrats and is poised to pass the Senate, but it faces an uphill battle in the House and would likely be vetoed by President Donald Trump if it somehow gets to his desk.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey told reporters that he hopes that a vote on a bill to overturn the Federal Communications Commission's decision last year to repeal net neutrality can occur next week.
"This is the fight for the internet," Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey, who is leading the legislation's push, told reporters said, arguing that this puts strong net neutrality "back on the books."
The Republican-led FCC voted in December to repeal the 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.
While the Democratic effort faces stiff opposition in Congress -- given Republican control of both chambers and the White House -- Wednesday's event highlighted how the issues had energized some voters -- particularly those on the left.
While the minority party has limited options in bringing legislation to the Senate floor, Democrats used the procedural maneuver of a discharge petition, gathering enough support, to force a vote. Markey noted the short time frame that the Senate has to work within, and that it must happen by June 12 under the rules of the Congressional Review Act, a law that allows Congress to repeal actions taken by federal agencies. Republicans have used CRA's to roll back several Obama-era regulations they oppose.
Markey also said that Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine supported the effort and backs his bill, as do all 49 members of the Democratic caucus, meaning they would have enough votes to pass the measure.
Despite the opposition, Markey spoke hopefully about the long-term prospects for the bill, noting that the House has until the end of this year to vote on the issue.
"Our intent is to have it pass in the Senate, the momentum is building," he said. "We expect there to be some considerable momentum coming out of the Senate and 160 will quickly grow towards the 218 that we need to have a vote over there as well."
Pressed by a reporter about the likelihood that Trump would veto this bill if it ever made it to his desk, Markey predicted a "political firestorm" if that happened.
"When we pass this in the Senate, when we pass it in the House of Representatives, when it's clear the electorate is at 86% favorable for this issue, that we would have a political firestorm throughout this country if President Trump announced that he was going to veto that said protections, replacing it with exactly nothing," he said.
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