After Senate support for PIPA evaporated, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finally got the message and postponed a scheduled January 24 vote on the bill.
In a press release, Sen. Reid said,
In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act.
There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved. Counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year, with the movie industry alone supporting over 2.2 million jobs. We must take action to stop these illegal practices. We live in a country where people rightfully expect to be fairly compensated for a day’s work, whether that person is a miner in the high desert of Nevada, an independent band in New York City, or a union worker on the back lots of a California movie studio.
I admire the work that Chairman Leahy has put into this bill. I encourage him to continue engaging with all stakeholders to forge a balance between protecting Americans’ intellectual property, and maintaining openness and innovation on the internet. We made good progress through the discussions we’ve held in recent days, and I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks.
Majority Leader Reid’s statement today was a complete reversal of his remarks this past Sunday on Meet The Press, “We–this bill was reported out of the committee in May unanimously, Democrats and Republicans, and in recent weeks organizations like Google and Facebook and others have said, “Well, there are some problems this could create,” and I think they’re right, I think it could create some problems. That’s why I’ve spoken to Senator Leahy, chairman of the committee, I’ve written a letter to the ranking member, Senator Grassley, saying, “Let’s–we, we–there are some issues that have come up, but I think we need to have this a winner for everyone, not just for the content people. And I’ve spoken at length with Senator Feinstein. She’s got the eye of the storm in California because that’s where a lot of the theft of music and movies is taking place and also where Google and Facebook is headquartered. So we need to work on this and we’re going to–I will hope we can have a manager’s amendment when we get back here in a week or 10 days and move forward on this. It’s important that we try to do this on a fair basis and I’m going to do everything I can to get that done.”
Reid’s decided to postpone the vote after it became obvious that the bill was not going to pass its first procedural vote on Tuesday. In a week, Senate opposition to the bill grew eightfold from 5 to 40 Senators. If Reid can’t bring PIPA back in the next few weeks, the bill will most likely be dead, because time is not on the side of the SOPA/PIPA supporters.
Due to the House’s schedule of taking one week off for every two weeks of work, the Senate and the House are not often in session at the same time. Since 2012 is an election year, both bodies have given themselves light schedules so that their members will have plenty of time to go home and campaign for reelection.
The House was depending on a passed PIPA bill to serve as the template for their next attempt at SOPA, so Reid’s decision will have a ripple effect on both bills.
The Obama administration gave the opposition real momentum when they came out against SOPA/PIPA, and if nothing else, the Internet protest gave those who already had doubts and were already looking for a way to jump off the censorship bandwagon the political cover that they needed to do so. It is interesting that a number of Senators who support PIPA and are facing close reelection races didn’t change their position, so it is unclear how successful the Internet blackout was.
What the protest did do was raise awareness about this legislation, and shine light on the real issue of Internet censorship. The protest also changed the climate of the debate and once the support was gone, Harry Reid had no choice but to cancel the vote.
Harry Reid still harbors the delusion that PIPA can be fixed, and for this reason alone, the American people must continue to say no to SOPA and PIPA.