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Shield law loses out on procedural vote, but hope remains

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While the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is disappointed that the U.S. Senate did not take advantage of…

While the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is disappointed that the U.S. Senate did not take advantage of an opportunity to bring the Free Flow of Information Act (S. 2035) to the Senate floor on Wednesday, the federal shield law is not dead.

“Given the unusual rules of the U.S. Senate, we believe today’s vote was actually a positive step forward in the passage of this bill, which would create a qualified federal shield law that restricts the federal government’s ability to subpoena journalists,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish.

A procedural vote that would have ended discussion and allowed for a vote to send the bill to the floor by the end of the week earned a majority of votes from the Senate but not enough to overcome a Republican filibuster on the energy bill. The motion to proceed ultimately failed 51 – 43. Senate Republicans are threatening to block most Senate business until lawmakers vote on energy legislation.

The bill has garnered broad bi-partisan support from both houses of Congress. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the measure in early October by a 15 – 4 vote. Two weeks later, a similar bill passed the full House of Representatives 398 – 21. The measure now awaits consideration from the full Senate.

The bill’s bi-partisan coalition of sponsors believe Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring a revised version of the bill for a vote on the floor in September after its August recess.

Despite intense pressure from Republican leaders to vote “no” on the procedural issue, five Republican Senators voted “aye” on the motion to bring the bill to a vote: Susan Collins (Maine), Richard Lugar (Indiana), Arlen Spector (Pennsylvania), Chuck Hagel (Nebraska) and Gordon Smith (Oregon).