Previously, we’ve told you about how Democrats can use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to fight to protect net neutrality on the federal level, and about how states and localities can resist Trump’s attempt to destroy the foundation of the open internet. In this document, we’ll give you more specifics on what the fight will look like in the Senate and in the House, including what the timeline is in each chamber.
In this document:
- The FCC starts the process by formally publishing the regulation
- The fight in the Senate
- The fight in the House
- If the CRA doesn’t work: Pass a new law protecting net neutrality
The CRA (which you can read here) stipulates that members of the House and Senate can only submit a resolution of disapproval beginning on the date that the new rule is “received by Congress and ending 60 days thereafter (excluding days either House of Congress is adjourned for more than 3 days during a session of Congress).”
Now that the FCC has submitted the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” to Congress and published it in the Federal Register (which happened on February 22), a 60-day clock has started. Within these next 60 days, members of the House and Senate must each submit a resolution of disapproval in their respective chamber. (These 60 days don’t include days that one chamber is in recess; it’s only days Congress is working that count.) In the CRA, this time is known as the “initiation period.”
Luckily, Democrats have net neutrality champions in each chamber who have already stepped up. Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts and Representative Mike Doyle from Pennsylvania’s 14th District have said they will introduce a resolution of disapproval as soon as the CRA permits. After that, the resolution of disapproval will be referred to the committee in each chamber with jurisdiction. In the Senate, that’s the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (the “Commerce Committee”); in the House, that’s the Committee on the Judiciary (or the “Judiciary Committee”).
After 20 days: In the Senate, the CRA empowers the party in the minority to force a vote—an unusual tool that Democrats should use. The CRA states that, if the Commerce Committee hasn’t voted on the resolution of disapproval at the end of 20 calendar days, 30 Senators can force the bill to the floor. (Fortunately, all 49 Democrats have agreed to co-sponsor Senator Markey’s resolution.)
Immediately after petition: Once that happens, the Senate’s only choice is to vote on the motion to proceed, which is a procedural vote—meaning no amendments or other motions are in order. This vote only requires a simple majority to pass, and Senator Susan Collins has already announced she will support the resolution of disapproval.
Immediately after MTP: After that, there are 10 hours of debate, and then a final vote on the resolution of disapproval (where every Senator would be expected to vote the same way they did on the motion to proceed). That means Democrats are just one vote away from passing this resolution of disapproval in the Senate.
After 30 days: In the House, there is no equivalent mechanism for the minority to force a vote. Instead, House Democrats will have to get a majority of Representatives to sign a “discharge petition” 30 days after the resolution of disapproval is referred to the Judiciary Committee. Since there are currently 431 Representatives in the House, that means the 193 House Democrats will need 23 House Republicans to sign the petition. Discharge petitions are rarely successful—which is why protecting net neutrality through Congress is a serious uphill battle. (Read our explainer on discharge petitions here.)
A few weeks after the petition: If the motion to discharge passes, it can be followed immediately by a vote on the underlying legislation—the resolution of disapproval itself. Because it would require a majority of the House to agree to get to this point in the first place, it is extremely likely that this vote would pass if the discharge petition is successful.
Once both the House and Senate pass a resolution of disapproval, it would go to Trump’s desk for signature. That’s when the hardest part of the fight starts.
Trump will almost certainly veto the resolution of disapproval, which would send it back to Congress. Congress can override a presidential veto if two-thirds of each chamber votes to do so (288 members of the House and 67 Senators), but despite the overwhelming public support for net neutrality, it would be unlikely that that many Republicans stand up to Trump.
That’s why, this November (and in 2020 when it’s time to elect a new president), we need to elect Democrats on the federal, state, and local level who pledge to use their power to protect the open internet. Once progressives retake power in the White House, on Capitol Hill, and in state capitols nationwide, they’ll be able to pass laws protecting net neutrality instead of relying on administrative actions that can be overturned later. You can find more information about how to turn your constituent power into electoral power at indivisible435.org.