GOP Senators Unbothered by Upcoming Net Neutrality Vote: 'Wait, Is That Tomorrow? I Better Get On It'

| MAY 15, 2018 | 8:16 PM

The Senate will vote Wednesday to repeal changes to net neutrality rules made by the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission, but if you ask Senate Republicans about the vote, they haven't given it much thought.

“I have not actually considered it much,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told IJR on Tuesday when asked how he plans to vote on the measure, which is being forced on the floor by Senate Democrats. “I'm likely to vote against it, but I really haven't decided,” he added.

Scott isn't the only Republican senator who seems unconcerned regarding tomorrow's vote to preserve the Obama-era protections, which has the support of over 80 percent of Americans, across party lines. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told IJR that he's also currently undecided on the bill, noting that he “just got back” from traveling to Israel for Monday's historic U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem

When asked about the bill, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) initially said he hadn't decided, but then quickly asked IJR: “Wait, is that tomorrow? I better get on it.”

Democrats have been upfront about what's happening regarding tomorrow's vote. While it's sure to pass the Senate, thanks to some Republican support, it's unlikely to even be brought to the floor of the House.

So, ultimately, the purpose of the bill appears to be far more political for Democrats: Get each Republican member of the Senate to reveal where they stand on an issue that 8 out of 10 Americans support ahead of the fall midterms. 

“This bill will get every member of the Senate on the record as either supporting or opposing net neutrality,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said on Monday, not hiding the fact that the vote could be used against dissenting Republicans in future elections. 

However, some Republicans aren't sold that net neutrality is such an easy win for Democrats. “If the Democrats want to run on regulating the internet I think that's a losing strategy,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) told IJR after being asked if Republicans could become vulnerable for voting against such a popular issue. 

Gardner also argued that the net neutrality measures Democrats will bring to the Senate floor on Wednesday would result in “just regulating the internet and allowing the internet to become a wholly owned utility of the federal government and I think that's a bad idea.”

One Republican Senator, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), crossed party lines to back her colleagues' efforts to get the bill on the Senate floor for a vote. But she hasn't given much thought to the possible political impact her vote may have on fellow Republicans moving forward. 

“I really haven't tried to game out the politics of that,” Collins said, noting that she wants Congress to pass legislation to ensure more clarity regarding the issue no matter who is in office. 

“I think we need to prohibit, through law, the prioritization of certain content over others. This is very important in my state,” she added. 

Supporters of net neutrality remain confident that the issue will be a winning one for Democrats in 2018 and beyond, with some projecting it will “motivate young and progressive voters to turn out” in the upcoming midterm elections. 

“I would not want to campaign in any part of this country saying that I oppose net neutrality,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told IJR. “But, they make their own decisions,” he said while laughing. 

“I think at a time where the overwhelming majority of the American people want to keep a free and open internet, I am surprised the degree to which Republicans refuse to do what the American people want them to do,” Sanders added.