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Mitch McConnell: Delay Online Piracy Vote

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called on Democratic leaders today to hold off on a procedural vote scheduled for next week on legislation to combat online piracy.

“While we must combat the online theft of intellectual property, current proposals in Congress raise serious legal, policy and operational concerns,” McConnell said in a release. “Rather than prematurely bringing the Protect IP Act to the Senate floor, we should first study and resolve the serious issues with this legislation.”

The vote was teed up by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) before the holiday recess and is set for Tuesday afternoon, to determine whether the Senate will take up the measure.

Reid still plans to hold the vote, and the bill remains a priority for him, a Senate Democratic leadership aide said Wednesday.

The Senate bill, known as PIPA, has been the target of intense opposition from technology companies such as Google, which contend that the measure is overly broad and would create unintended consequences that could stifle innovation, limit Americans’ free speech rights, increase the risk of cyber-attacks and undermine how the Internet functions.

PIPA would allow the Department of Justice as well as individual copyright owners to bring legal action against Internet users who post copyright-infringing content.

Opponents say the measure would provide the government too much leeway to shut down websites without first notifying their users or owners.

The opposition has shaken the support of at least seven of the bill’s original 40 co-sponsors, including Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.).

Supporters of the measure have expressed frustration at what they consider eleventh-hour maneuvering. The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May without a dissenting vote.

Senate Democratic leaders hope that the opposition to the bill can be channeled into an effort to amend it rather than kill it, the Democratic aide said.

They will need 60 votes to cut off debate — it remains unclear whether they have them — and hope to entice Members to vote to proceed to the measure by promising an open amendment process.

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