House Rules Committee: Net Neutrality-Blocking Bill To Be Addressed Without Amendments

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The House Rules Committee voted Monday to bring the resolution invalidating the Federal Communications Commission's network neutrality rules to the House floor without amendments, or the opportunity to offer them, and with limited debate.

That was the product of an hour and a half of spirited debate over the resolution (H.J. Res. 37), led by House Communications Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who sponsored the resolution, and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) ranking member of the subcommittee, who strongly opposed it.

The FCC adopted the compromise rules Dec. 21 on a straight party-line vote.

Defeated in the Rules vote were attempts to amend the resolution to include no-blocking and transparency portions of the FCC's rules. Both had been offered in the subcommittee, but Walden pointed out to the subcommittee then, and to the Rules Committee Monday, that amendments were not germane on the resolution under the Congressional Review Act because it was implement to hold an up or down vote on agency regs.

The decision to bring the resolution to the floor under a closed rule--limited debate, no amendments--will now have to be voted on in the full House, which is slated for Tuesday, according to an Eshoo staffer. The resolution is then expected to get a Thursday floor vote, said the staffer.

The Rules Committee hearing on the resolution transferred the spirited and politically polarized debate from Subcommittee. Republicans said they were simply trying to stop the FCC from over extending its authority to the detriment of Internet, which they argue has flourished without the rules and without major incident.

Democrats countered that the rules were a compromise that preserves innovation, investment, and an open Internet.

Walden said that he knew FCC chairman Julius Genachowski was a friend of the President and that Obama supported the new rules. "I get that," he said, but also said that when the FCC oversteps its authority, as Republicans argue it did, Congress needs to take action.

Eshoo said that suggestion that the FCC's actions were going to ruin the Internet was "hogwash." Republicans argue that the rules could stifle investment. Eshoo pointed out that the rules were generally not opposed by ISPs, but Walden pointed to Verizon as one that did, then repeated his arguments from the subcommittee that the FCC had coerced cable operators and others into submission with the open Title II proceeding and their power to affect the outcome of other issues those companies would want resolved in their favor.

The hearing occasionally strayed into other issues, with Democrats suggesting the closed rule was another example of Republicans not being open and transparent, bringing up oil companies and the healthcare bill.

It also got personal at times. Walden took issue with Eshoo's suggestion that the Medieval Studies degree of a Republican Communications subcommittee witness on the impact on capital markets of the rules might not be the ideal qualifications.

Walden shot back that she also had a Harvard Business MBA.

At about the same time the hearing was being held, the White House Executive Office of the President sent out a statement opposing the resolution and saying the president was being advised to veto it. Given that fact that the Senate is in Democratic hands, the resolution is unlikely to get that far.

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