After a seven-and-a-half hour hearing to markup and vote on
two bills, one being the FCC network neutrality blocking measure, the House
Energy & Commerce Committee approved the latter on a straight party line
vote 30 to 23 to approve the resolution.
It had been approved 15 to 8
in the subcommittee along the same political divide.
As expected, that vote came after Democrats introduced
amendments quickly scrapped as non-germane by the Republicans, and spoke out
against the resolution and in favor of the FCC's network neutrality rules. Rep.
Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) got the award for the bill's harshest rhetorical slam.
"This is a bill that Hosni Mubarak would love and capitalists should
Republicans were just as adamant that it was
their responsibility to try and prevent the FCC from regulating the
Internet and subsuming powers they argued were rightly Congress'.
Michael Powell, the just-announced head of the National
Cable & Telecommunications Association, was invoked a couple of times for
proposing the fourth Internet access guidelines,
including nonblocking of Web sites--that were expanded and codified in the
new rules adopted Dec. 21.
Democrats called the resolution, which has effectively no
chance to pass in the Senate, a distraction from issues like spectrum
reclamation and emergency communications the committee should be working on.
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) quipped that the committee was making the Senate
look productive, suggesting that was very difficult to do. Rep. Greg Walden
(R-Ore.) chair of the Communications Subcommittee, said it was going to deal
with those issues.
"First of all, members of the subcommittee should know
we are going to take on these other issues," he said. "We told you
that and we will." When it comes to spectrum, the former broadcaster said,
the committee will determine "who has it, who's sitting on it, who's using
it, including the government and private sector, and how we can best utilize
it." He said the committee would take on interoperability (a nationwide
emergency communications network), and on FCC process reform. He said in an
interview last week he had discussed such reform with ranking member Anna Eshoo
(D-Calif.) and echoed that potential cooperation at the hearing.
Responding to criticisms from Democrats that the resolution
of disapproval--a fast track mechanism that can't be amended-- was a blunt
instrument and an abuse of process, he said that the blunt instrument was
instead the FCC's threat of Title II classification of ISP's
which he said it used to get industry to accept the regs as essentially
the lesser of two evils.