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Congressional aides said offices were inundated with calls about the bill. “It’s constant. And everyone tweets about you right when they get off the phone,” one House aide said.
Supporters of the measure are frustrated because the Senate bill has been around since May, when it was unanimously reported out of the Judiciary Committee.
Senate Democratic leaders hope the opposition can be channeled into an effort to improve it and not kill it, the Senate Democratic leadership aide said.
Behind the scenes in the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor is playing a pivotal role, mediating between two Republican committee chairmen, Smith and House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), even if the duo were left with contrasting messages from the Virginia Republican.
Cantor and McCarthy have taken an interest in Internet and technology issues as part of their Young Guns brand and made inroads with Silicon Valley executives, including taking a September trip to Facebook’s Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters.
Cantor has appealed for support in Hollywood in recent years, and McCarthy has closely monitored the entertainment industry from his days in the California Assembly.
But the legislation pits the film and entertainment sector against Internet giants such as Google and Facebook.
Last Friday, Cantor called Issa from France on the way home from a Congressional delegation trip to the Middle East to discuss the bill and a hearing that Issa was planning.
Issa had been blasting Smith and SOPA for weeks, including at a Judiciary Committee markup before Christmas. The Oversight panel’s hearing, initially scheduled for Wednesday, would have coincided with the online protests.
In a statement released over the weekend in which Issa announced he was postponing the hearing, the California Republican said Cantor “assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote.”
In an interview, Issa elaborated that Cantor said “he would offer the protection from it going to the floor so that we had a chance to more fully get vetted without necessarily the hearing that I had scheduled.”
However, Smith said Wednesday that the Majority Leader told him “that that’s inaccurate.”
“You notice that there were never any direct quotes about what Mr. Cantor said, and there was a reason for that. A consensus does not mean that everyone has got to agree. I fully expect to go forward at the appropriate time.”
Smith said GOP leaders are “supportive of our efforts.”
Laena Fallon, a spokeswoman for Cantor, said the Majority Leader “has told both chairmen that there are major issues of concern that need to be addressed prior to moving forward.”
Issa also suggested Cantor hadn’t been opposed to his vigorous public opposition to Smith’s bill.