A House committee voted along party lines Thursday to delay the Obama administration's plan to give up authority over the Internet's address system.
The bill, the DOTCOM Act, now heads to the full House for consideration.
Republicans fear the administration's plan could allow Russia, China, or other authoritarian regimes to seize new powers over the Internet and even censor websites.
Their legislation would require that the Government Accountability Office study the issue before the Commerce Department could give up its contractual authority over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — the nonprofit group that manages the technical procedures that allow computers around the world to connect to websites. The transfer of authority over ICANN to the "global Internet community" is scheduled to take place next year.
Rep. Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican, said the transition is "extremely important to the future of the Internet."
"What we're saying is can we just stop a minute and get GAO to take a look?"
He argued that once the U.S. gives up its role in Internet management, it will be impossible to ever get it back.
But Democrats argue the plan is just the latest step in the U.S. government's longtime support of the "multi-stakeholder" model of Internet governance, in which decisions are made by an array of nonprofits, companies, academics, and engineers.