US Senate Votes to Override FCC Broadband Privacy Rule

In a vote that went strictly along party lines on Thursday, March 23, 2017, the U.S. Senate voted to override Obama-era regulations that were designed to ensure the privacy of consumer data via internet service providers. The 50 “ayes” votes for the override were all from GOP senators, with two Republican senators absent; the 48 “nays” votes were from Democratic and independent senators.

The override of the broadband privacy rule came via SJRes34, introduced by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) on March 7, 2017. The regulations that are part of this override, or disapproval in the words of the resolution, relate to “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services.” In plain language, loss of this regulation and the rules it created within the Federal Communications Commission, will allow internet service providers to cull personal data of their customers such as browsing history to sell to the highest bidder.

The 115th Congress had made frequent use of what had been an obscure tool, the Congressional Review Act, to overturn recently enacted regulations through an override of those regulations that must pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate by simple majority votes before being sent to President Trump for his consideration.

The reason that the Congressional Review Act is the preferred tool of legislators both in the House of Representatives and the Senate is that unlike traditional legislation, joint resolutions of disapproval are not subject to a filibuster, which requires a vote of 60 senators to end, rather than the simple majority of a Congressional Review Act disapproval resolution. In addition, a provision in the Congressional Review Act mandates that any rule or regulation disapproved through the process may not be re-written unless Congress legislates in the future to do so.

SJRes34 will now makes it way to the House of Representatives for consideration in that legislative body where again a simple majority vote will decide the issue.

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