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Leaders Weather SOPA Revolt

Lobbying Blitz Spurs Some Lawmakers to Abandon Piracy Bill

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Although House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has been mediating a dispute between two influential Republican committee chairmen over the Stop Online Piracy Act, the lawmakers seem to have conflicting opinions on where Cantor stands.

Mass online protests of legislation designed to combat online piracy prompted scores of lawmakers to renounce the bill Wednesday, leaving Congressional leaders in each chamber divided on how the bill would progress.

After hours of furious lobbying against the measure, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, “It’s pretty clear to many of us that there’s a lack of consensus at this point,” and he urged House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) to “try to build consensus” before the bill moves to the House floor.

Over the course of the day, other House leaders tried to steer clear of taking a stand on the measure.

“Not yet,” House GOP Conference Vice Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) said when asked whether she had a position on the bill.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) kept walking without uttering a word when asked the same question.

Across the Dome, Senate Democratic leaders said they are still planning to hold a procedural vote next week on the measure, known in the House as the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, and in the Senate as the Protect IP Act, or PIPA.

The vote was teed up by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) before the holiday recess and is set for Tuesday afternoon. Reid still plans to hold the vote, and the bill remains a priority for him, a Senate Democratic leadership aide said Wednesday.

Wednesday’s protests were preceded by a slight revision by the administration of its position. At the White House, Press Secretary Jay Carney appeared to walk back remarks made by advisers last weekend that were widely viewed as announcing President Barack Obama’s opposition to the bills.

The remarks showed a “keen focus on the need to do something serious about online piracy, especially by foreign websites. It’s a serious problem that requires serious legislative responses,” Carney said Tuesday.

While top Internet sites, including Google, Wikipedia and Reddit, used Wednesday to protest the legislation, lawmakers took to Twitter to announce their opposition.

In the Senate, four co-sponsors, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, announced Wednesday that they were no longer in favor of the bill in its current form.

“After listening to the concerns on both sides of the debate over the Protect IP Act, it is simply not ready for prime time and both sides must continue working together to find a better path forward,” the Utah Republican said.

Other co-sponsors, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), also signaled their concern.

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