Mark Tapscott: FCC rollback promises sound great but does House GOP have the cojones?

Michigan Republican Fred Upton wasted no time Tuesday promising “to use every resource available” to stop the Federal Communication Commission's bureaucratic takeover of the Internet when he becomes chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Jan. 5, 2011.

“The FCC's hostile actions toward innovation, investment and job creation cannot be allowed to stand," Upton said in response to the vote by the commission to arrogate regulatory authority over the Internet.

The commission's three Democrats, led by Chairman Julius Genachowski, voted Tuesday to adopt a new version of the same “Net Neutrality” rules that a federal appeals court ruled in April the FCC has no authority to promulgate or enforce.

The FCC regulatory power grab lacked the startling crudeness of President Obama's hostile takeovers last year of General Motors and Chrysler, but the move nevertheless represents, according to the Atlantic, the arrival of “the dead hand of regulation” (James Q. Wilson be blessed) to stifle the Internet.

Genachowski and company did so over the objections of the commission's two Republican members and despite warnings from both sides of the partisan aisle in Congress that this illegitimate power-grab will be blocked come January.

Upton's chief ally on the committee will be Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who will be chairman of the communications subcommittee come January. Walden sounds equally as determined as Upton to stop the FCC in its tracks, vowing that “if left unchallenged, this power grab will allow the commission to regulate any interstate wired or wireless communication on barely more than a whim.”

Upton and Walden certainly sound determined, but here's the reality: Unless they, House Speaker-to-be John Boehner, and the GOP caucus absolutely refuse to compromise with Obama and the Democratic Senate on the issue, this bureaucratic coup won't be stopped.

And that will mean, according to the Atlantic, the Internet's remarkable era of explosive creativity and unprecedented competitive openness will die, suffocated by a New Deal-era inspired federal bureaucracy, “with all its attendant legal wrangling, rent-seeking and special pleading. Goodbye, innovation. Hello, government regulation.”

Instead of rollback, the more likely scenario will be a series of House hearings full of strident Republican rhetoric, accompanied by a flood of sanctimonious editorials in the New York Times, The Washington Post and other liberal mainstream media outlets calling on all sides to “compromise.”

At that point, Obama and Genachowski will offer up a few symbolic “concessions,” Upton and the House GOP will then give in to their pathetic fear of looking “unreasonable,” and the FCC will be free to impose its arbitrary will on the Internet, if only ever so slightly more slowly.

“Now hold on there, Tapscott,” you might be thinking. “Aren't you the conservative talking head on MSNBC and elsewhere who keeps saying the Republican House will have no choice but to compromise with Obama and the Democrats?”

Yes, that's me, but I'm also the guy who points out the crucial difference between genuine and faux compromise, the latter of which would be more accurately called “passive resistance.” The people voted in November for limited government, reduced spending, lower taxes, and less federal regulation.

Genuine compromise accepts deals that may only move the ball 80 percent in the direction voters demand, but still make significant, measurable progress in the right direction. Faux compromise merely slows the pace at which Obama and the Democrats continue to increase spending, taxing and regulating.

To achieve genuine compromise, House GOPers will have to draw a line in the sand and then be willing to stand fast there no matter what. Republicans promised to be tough in the past but mostly failed in the clutch.

This time, mere promises won't cut it.

Mark Tapscott is editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner.

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