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Photo illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

After Republicans in Congress pushed through a resolution to overturn internet privacy rules, which is expected to be signed by the president, some Democrats are warning an agreement on net neutrality may be harder to reach. Rep. Frank Pallone, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, compared this week's vote to a "sledgehammer" and said it "really poisons the well" for a broader net neutrality bill.

Why this matters: A legislative replacement for the FCC's net neutrality rules was never going to come easy. But any increased skepticism focuses the spotlight on Trump's FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and what he plans to do about the rules. Here's where things stand now:

At the FCC:

  • There's little doubt that Pai hopes to see scrapped the legal designation of broadband service that allowed the FCC to implement its net neutrality rules in the first place. He hasn't provided much in the way of details on how he'll go about doing this.
  • Pai's argument for undoing the rules is clear. He said at a conference in Barcelona a month ago that the rules "injected tremendous uncertainty into the broadband market," which he called "the enemy of growth."
  • Gigi Sohn, an advisor to former Chairman Tom Wheeler who spearheaded the net neutrality rules, said that consumer advocates see the privacy debate as a way to get people "excited and active on net neutrality" as the issue looms at the FCC. Pai, of course, will have his own vocal telecom allies in whatever path he choses to pursue.

Two angles: Proponents of the net neutrality rules will argue the fight over the privacy regulations is evidence that keeping the current regime in place will best protect consumers from bad ISP behavior. Detractors will say that stripping that regime — and handing authority over internet provider privacy back over to the Federal Trade Commission — will better serve consumers.

On Capitol Hill:

  • This month's votes to overturn the FCC's broadband privacy rules, which were born out of the net neutrality regulations, have become a front-row tech issue with Democrats. For example, the party's campaign arms are using it to attack Republicans.
  • Not every lawmaker is on the same page as Pallone. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who would play a major role in any deal, says he doesn't want to link the privacy scuffle with the broader net neutrality debate. Same for Sen. Brian Schatz: "I don't know that it's the same thing."
  • Top Republicans insist they haven't scuttled a deal. Sen. John Thune, who is pushing for negotiations, says he thinks Democrats might be prodded towards the negotiating table by FCC action. The death of the privacy regulations does mean that privacy rules for ISPs could be used to soothe the fears of lawmakers wary of a deal. Thune says he's willing to consider that if it will bring Democrats to the table.

Reality check: Senate Democrats are unlikely to strike up serious conversations with Republicans about the issue before they see what Pai is up to. "I think right now it depends on what the FCC does, and it's highly unlikely that the legislative branch is going to go first," said Schatz.

The bottom line: Pai is likely to make the first move here, and he hasn't committed to a timeframe for action. Watch how the "netroots" advocates and Congress respond to his decision. "It's a safe assumption that [Chairman] Pai is going to move forward with his own proposal and we'll have to take a look at that and evaluate what the path forward is after that," Schatz said, "whether our best strategy is litigation or legislation."

Go deeper

9 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

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A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

9 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 10 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."