This was a procedural vote on whether to bring up legislation overturning federal “network neutrality” rules. This vote was on a “question of consideration”—literally whether or not to “consider” the resolution.
“Network Neutrality” regulations prohibit Internet service companies from charging higher fees to online content providers for service that enables their websites to download more quickly. For example, Internet service providers such as AT&T and Verizon could offer faster service to web sites that could afford to pay for it. Web sites that could not afford to pay for this service, however, would download more slowly. Thus, network neutrality rules were intended to prevent the evolution of a “two-tiered” Internet system. Under such a system, content providers with more money would thrive as a result of being able to pay for service that allowed their websites to download quickly. Less affluent web site owners, meanwhile, could see their traffic slow to a crawl.
There was no debate on the question of consideration. However, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who demanded the vote on this question of consideration, had given a speech on the House floor earlier in the day in which he argued that the House should not have debated a network neutrality bill given that the federal government was just hours away from running out of money and shutting down entirely. The possibility of a government shutdown was the result of a sharp disagreement between House Republicans and Senate Democrats—as well as President Obama—over spending levels for government programs. Democrats had agreed to enact more than $30 billion in budget cuts, but Republicans had insisted on at least $60 billion. While President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) negotiated a compromise on federal spending, the House brought up this temporary government funding measure.
In addition, House Republicans wanted to eliminate all federal funding for Planned Parenthood in the government-funding bill. Planned Parenthood clinics provide a wide array of women’s health services, including breast cancer screenings. They also, however, perform abortions. On this basis, Republicans sought to ban federal funding for the organization entirely. Most Democrats—including President Obama—strongly opposed such a ban.
During his speech (which occurred during morning “one minutes speeches,” in which members are permitted to speak on any topic for up to one minute), McGovern said: “We're bringing a net neutrality bill to the floor which has nothing to do with anything, and we should be spending our time talking about instead how we should save the jobs of hundreds of thousands of people that are in the balance if this government shuts down, how we should save the social safety net, because it's gone if this government shuts down….We need to keep this government going. We need to get a deal. Take this net neutrality bill off the floor today.”
The House voted to bring up the network neutrality bill (in other words, in favor of the “question of consideration”) by a vote of 238-174. All 234 Republicans present and 4 Democrats voted “yea.” 174 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House brought up a bill overturning network neutrality rules.