Anticipated Republican gains in the U.S. Congress after next Tuesday's election have limited implications for tech-related issues like net neutrality and reform of National Security Agency surveillance programs, with some observers expecting no huge changes.
Many pollsters and prognosticators are predicting Republicans will add to their majority in the House of Representatives and possibly take over majority control of the Senate, allowing Republicans to set the legislative agenda for the next two years.
In recent years, with split party control in the two chambers of Congress, it's been difficult for lawmakers to pass any major pieces of legislation, particularly involving anything controversial. That may not change with Republican majorities, with many in their ranks resisting new regulations, with a few exceptions.
On many tech issues, however, there isn't a clear partisan breakdown and trade groups have worked to court lawmakers in both parties. Here's how Republican control of Congress could affect several major tech-related issues.
Majority Republicans in the House have attempted several times in recent years to stop the U.S. Federal Communications Commission from creating net neutrality rules. Those efforts have gone nowhere, partly because of a Democratic majority in the Senate that supports new rules.
If Republicans take control of the Senate, there may be a new push to stop the FCC's current net neutrality rulemaking proceeding. The Democratic minority in the Senate would have the numbers to filibuster any legislation, however, and President Barack Obama almost certainly would veto any legislative efforts to sidetrack the FCC's proceeding.
Some observers say they don't expect Congress to focus on the issue, because it's in the FCC's hands. If the FCC's rules don't heavily regulate broadband providers, Republicans in Congress may see little benefit to pushing against net neutrality rules when their efforts would be unlikely to become law, some observers said.
Nearly 4 million people filed comments in the FCC's net neutrality proceeding and it appears that a large majority of those support net neutrality rules, noted Althea Erickson, policy director at Etsy, an online marketplace that has supported strong rules.
On any attempts to overturn FCC net neutrality rules, advocates and members of the public "would have their back and take that fight to the Senate and the House to protect the rules," Erickson said. The people who've filed millions of comments at the FCC "could easily turn their attention to the folks ... who might try to overturn those protections."
That said, if Republicans gain control of both houses of Congress this year, then maintain that majority, and if a Republican president is also elected in 2016, then net neutrality rules could be in trouble.
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