House Ties FCC Hands On Net Neutrality

It’s legislation by budget fiat, and it’s wrong.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR, @repgregwalden), the chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, successfully introduced an amendment to H.R. 1 that would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from using its budget to implement net neutrality rules passed in late 2010. A similar amendment lies in wait in the Senate, offered by Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and John Ensign (R-NE). 

The amendment passed 244-181.  H.R. 1 is a continuing resolution that details federal spending for the remainder of this fiscal year. Should the measure survive a Senate vote, it is unlikely that President Obama would veto the entire package because of this one clause.

Here’s the statement from Walden and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee:

We thank Reps. Mario Diaz Balart, Jo Ann Emerson, and Tom Graves for their leadership with us today protecting the Internet from excessive government regulation. We are grateful to the Appropriations Committee for helping us push the pause button on these harmful rules so that we can advance permanent protections for innovators and consumers. Together we and our colleagues send a strong message to the FCC that they have overstepped their authorities. We look forward to continuing this critical work to ensure that the open and thriving Internet we know today remains available to customers and job-creating entrepreneurs alike.

The number one contributor to Walden’s campaign war chest has been the National Association of Broadcasters, which provided $78,144 since 1998, most of that from political action committees. The number one contributor to Upton’s campaign war chest has been AT&T, which provided $94,600 since 1989, almost exclusively from political action committees.

Net neutrality opponents in the Senate and House have also introduced a joint resolution of disapproval, authorized by the Congressional Review Act (part of the 1996 Contract With America), to deflect the FCC net neutrality rules. The CRA gives Congress the power to to overturn agency using a joint resolution that requires a simple majority and Presidential signature. However, it has seldom been used (pdf). Procedurally, it much much harder to get a standalone resolution like this passed than to get something slipped into a massive document like H.R.1.

Like the GOP, I’m not crazy about the FCC net neutrality rules, but not because I think they go too far.

:: The Walden amendment is House Amendment 80 and is described thusly:

An amendment numbered 404 printed in the Congressional Record to prohibit the use of funds used to implement the Report and Order of the Federal Communications Commission relating to the matter of preserving the open Internet and broadband industry practices (FCC 10-201, adopted by the Commission on December 21, 2010.

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