Amid Internet Blackouts, Support for Anti-Piracy Bills Dwindling in Congress?

Jan 18, 2012 3:19pm

There’s a lot of second thinking around Congress this week on the two anti-piracy bills, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate.

Faced with public backlash after today’s internet blackout, some lawmakers were caving under the pressure – moving away from the bills that are currently making their way legislatively through Congress and reversing their positions.

Notable is that many members of Congress are using the same online social websites that are against the bills, like Facebook and Twitter, to announce their newfound position, or in many ways to reiterate their opposition.

This morning, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a co-sponsor of PIPA, withdrew his support via a post on his Facebook page.

“I have decided to withdraw my support for the Protect IP Act,” Rubio wrote. “Furthermore, I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor. Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet.”

This afternoon, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., announced on Twitter that he too is withdrawing his co-sponsoring of PIPA.

“I strongly oppose sanctioning Americans’ right to free speech in any medium, including over the internet. #SOPA #PIPA,” Blunt tweeted.

Earlier this morning, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, indicated that there is still much work to be done before legislation eventually comes to the floor.

“This bill is in committee,” he said. “They’ve had a number of hearings, it’s going through a mark-up and it’s pretty clear to many of us that there’s a lack of consensus at this point and I would expect that the committee would continue to work to try to build a consensus before this bill moves.”

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform had originally scheduled a hearing on DNS blocking for today, but the hearing was postponed after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., assured lawmakers that the removal of DNS (Domain Name Service) blocking provisions from SOPA were made. Even with this alteration, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Ca., continues to oppose SOPA as well as PIPA.

“The Protect IP Act and SOPA are threats to the openness, freedom, and innovation of the Internet,” Issa wrote in a statement. “I applaud the Internet community, including the thousands of blogs and websites that have decided to go dark today, for participating in our democracy and opening up the debate on legislation to the public.

“This unprecedented effort has turned the tide against a backroom lobbying effort by interests that aren’t used to being told ‘no.’”

Many other lawmakers also confirmed and reiterated their opposition to the PIPA bill as it stands now in the Senate.

Yesterday, Republican Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., tweeted, “I’m going to vote NO on #PIPA and #SOPA. The Internet is too important to our economy.”

On Friday, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., changed his position too, moving from a co-sponsor to now a non-supporter of the bill.

“I have heard from many constituents in person, online, and through calls and correspondence regarding the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA),” Cardin said in a statement. “I will continue to seek out meaningful amendments and alternative proposals to address the bill’s current flaws…. I would not vote for final passage of PIPA, as currently written, on the Senate floor.”

Despite these protests and calls for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to delay movement toward the bill, including by two other co-sponsors, Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the Senate is scheduled to hold a procedural vote on PIPA on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

If cloture is reached, and the bill is able to move forward, amendments could be added to change the bill as it moves toward final passage.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey tweeted yesterday, “#NJ: I hear your concerns re: #PIPA loud & clear & share in these concerns. I’m working to ensure critical changes are made to the bill…. I’m fully committed to ensuring that any bill that passes the Senate will maintain freedom of the internet & protect intellectual property.”

But the original writer of the bill in the Senate is standing his ground for now.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a co-sponsor of the bill, said that much of the criticism of the bill is “flatly wrong,” more intended to “stoke fear and concern than to shed light or foster workable solutions.”

“No one disputes that copyright infringement and counterfeiting on the Internet must be addressed.  We should have an open debate on the PROTECT IP Act.  Hiding behind the black box of self-censorship does not resolve the problem that is plaguing American business and hurting American consumers,” Leahy said in a statement. “The Senate will debate this important bill, which has been pending on the Senate’s calendar since May, next week.  I hope all Senators, and all of our partners in the Internet ecosystem, will come together to help create American jobs, promote America’s economy and protect American consumers.”

Despite participating websites that went dark today, encouraging people to call and email their members of Congress, a spokesperson says there has been “no uptick” in the phone calls to the House of Representatives today but that people have been visiting members’ websites.

“There is a manageable increase in visits to Member websites.  It’s possible some users will see a short delay or slow loading of a Members webpage,” Dan Weiser, communications director to the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, said in a statement this afternoon to ABC News.

 

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