The push to overturn the FCC decision to repeal net neutrality has gained support from an unlikely place: Mike Coffman, Republican Representative of Colorado, who has announced his across the aisle support for the usage of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) in regards to net neutrality. The CRA is a resolution designed to allow Congress to review and undo policy changes made by executive agencies, such as the FCC. This is a significant announcement given the severe lack of conservative Congressional support for net neutrality.
A motion to review was passed by Congress in May, with support from every Democratic Senator, and just three Republican: Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John Kennedy of Louisiana. Despite support in the Senate, the House will prove more difficult given that 217 representatives must sign onto the motion to force a vote. If the House is able to obtain this goal, Republicans will likely show increased support given the timing of the review. Given the overwhelming, bipartisan support from the constituencies of these representatives, lawmakers will likely be hesitant to vote against efforts to protect net neutrality with midterm elections looming in November. In addition to the provision of support for the usage of the CRA, Coffman has also introduced his own bill in Congress that would grant the protections offered by net neutrality prior to the repeal by the FCC. When asked about his bill, Coffman stated, “The American people deserve to know that their elected officials, not unelected bureaucrats are fighting for their interests. That fight begins with my bill, which will create an “internet constitution” with the foundational elements of net neutrality”. Many Republican Congressmen have done the opposite, introducing bills that would undermine the goals of a free and open internet. Coffman’s decree of support despite its direct contradiction to his party has not gone unnoticed by fellow net neutrality supporters.
Faiz Shakir, national political director of the American Civil Liberties Union spoke of his support for Coffman, stating that Congressmen should act in accordance to the needs and desires of their constituents, rather than that of corporations. Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future doubled down on Shakir’s publicized support, stating: “Rep. Mike Coffman is a net neutrality champion for … supporting the CRA. His bill has zero chance of passing this year, but he’s shown real political courage by supporting the CRA to restore net neutrality protections while he and Congress debate alternative solutions”. Additionally, a leading proponent for the restoration of net neutrality, Democratic Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts called on other Republicans to join Coffman on his brave stance: “I hope more Republicans will join this effort and stand on the side of American families who rely on and overwhelmingly support a free and open internet… I reiterate my call on Speaker Ryan to immediately schedule a vote on the CRA Resolution so we can put net neutrality rules back on the books as soon as possible”.
For many Republican Congressmen, it would be politically advantageous to follow suit with Coffman. Despite differences in party affiliation, the vast majority of Americans in all districts show support for the re-implementation of net neutrality guidelines. According to a study done in 2017 by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation, approximately 83% of Americans were opposed to the FCC decision to repeal net neutrality. When broken down by party, 75% of Republicans and a staggering 89% Democrats supported net neutrality. These figures are incredibly telling of public opinion towards the matter, which makes it all the more clear that Republican Congressmen should represent their constituents and allow elected officials to make decisions regarding net neutrality, rather than bureaucrats.