If you use the internet at all, you've probably heard of the ongoing debate on net neutrality. In December, the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in favor of repealing net neutrality regulations. But Senate Democrats plan to force another vote on the issue on Wednesday. So, what time is the Senate net neutrality vote?
Nearly 50 Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins from Maine, are forcing a Senate vote on Wednesday. The motion to proceed passed at 12 p.m. ET, and the official vote will take place around 3 p.m. ET. Net neutrality regulations were officially adopted by the FCC under former Barack Obama’s administration in 2015 as a means to safeguard the average internet user’s online experience and access to internet data. In simple words, net neutrality legally requires internet service providers — like Time Warner and Comcast, along with others — to treat all online data as the same, not inferior or superior to each other.
In May, FCC chairman Ajit Pai said that the repeal would take place on June 11, but critics of the repeal argue it would create a system of unchecked hierarchy and inequality in access for internet users. In a statement released on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said: "The internet should be kept free and open like our highways, accessible and affordable to every American, regardless of ability to pay."
Schumer's statement went on, "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."
Democrats are using a discharge petition under the Congressional Review Act in order to force their vote on Wednesday. The discharge petition allows members of the United States Senate to force a bill out of a committee — like the FCC — and brought to the floor for the Senate’s evaluation.
Under the Congressional Review Act, senators can crush a bill with merely 51 votes as opposed to the 60 votes normally needed. The Congressional Review Act also does away with lengthy filibusters, placing critical weight in the bare majority vote.
But it's a tricky move. Even if a majority backs the discharge petition, the bill can be undone. It might win full support in the Senate and still fall flat in front of the Republican-majority House. But Democrats might win if Republicans in the Senate like John Kennedy of Louisiana or Dean Heller of Nevada flip and become the 51st vote on their side. In the unlikely event that it passes the Senate and the House, President Donald Trump will most likely not support the effort.
CNN also reported that Democrats in the Senate were aware of the potential hurdles in their way but they intend on using the Wednesday vote to breathe more momentum in their voter base for the upcoming midterm elections.
Still, it's a move that has been met with criticism from some of their Republican peers who favorably view net neutrality and say that it could optimize the average user's experience. South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune told CNN that the "Democratic leadership decided to try to score political points by pushing a resolution to undo the FCC's decision, even though undoing this decision will do nothing to provide a permanent solution on net neutrality."
For now, those curious about net neutrality's fate should keep their eyes and ears open for news from the Senate as it most likely will be a tough battle for and against the Obama-era regulations.