Thirty senators have signed a letter making it clear that should the Federal Communications Commission implement “net neutrality” regulations during its December 21st meeting, the GOP will force a confrontation on the Senate floor over the rules. Doing so would provide insight into how Republicans, as a minority in the Senate, leverage its control over the House of Representatives to hamstring attempts by the executive branch to rule by regulatory fiat.
The letter questions the ability of the FCC to impose the regulations:
You and the Commission's general counsel have admitted in published statements that the legal justification for imposing these new regulations is questionable and “has a serious risk of failure in court.” It is very clear that Congress has not granted the Commission the specific statutory authority to do what you are proposing. Whether and how the Internet should be regulated is something that America's elected representatives in Congress, not the Commission, should determine.
The letter is signed by Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev., Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, John McCain, R-Ariz., Kit Bond, R-Mo., Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Jim DeMint, R-S.C., James Risch, R-Idaho, Mike Johanns, R-Neb., John Thune, R-S.D., Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Robert Bennett, R-Utah, John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., John Cornyn, R-Texas, David Vitter, R-La., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Jim Bunning, R-Ky., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Me., signed a separate letter also opposing the FCC ruling.
While Republicans will have the ability to pass a disapproval resolution in the House, it would go nowhere unless the Senate were to vote on it, something majority Democrats would be reluctant to do. These 30 names show how Republicans might be able to force confrontations in the Senate on issues they can win, despite being in the minority.
Incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee Fred Upton, R-Mich., has already told Genachowski to cease and desist earlier this month:
The FCC does not have authority to regulate the Internet, and pursuing net neutrality through Title I or reclassification is wholly unacceptable. Our new majority will use rigorous oversight, hearings and legislation to fight the FCC's overt power grab.
It looks like Genachowski is playing regulatory chicken.