The Senate Judiciary Committee at its executive business meeting this morning attempted to discuss the federal shield law but bogged down in discussing amendments. But the bill still lives. Check out the webcast (the discussion is toward the end, at 90 minutes into the two-hour meeting).
A few senators have raised 26 amendments, led by Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., proposed an amendment limiting the definition of a journalist to someone who is paid or contracted by a news organization (excluding unpaid news bloggers, student journalists, etc.).
The committee debated for some time on how to handle the process given the huge number of discussion items, implying that Kyl was trying to filibuster through amendment. Kyl, who has objected to the shield law for several years, argued that the committee should discuss all the amendments: “It’s obvious this bill is not going to be heard on the Senate floor for a long time… The reality is the time we take here in the committee will not be wasted.”
Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., proposed applying Rule 14, sending the bill directly to the Senate floor, bypassing the amendments and committee mire. However, the committee decided to go ahead and limit discussion time to five minutes per amendment.
The committee dealt with a few minor amendments and didn’t tackle the Feinstein journalist-definition amendment. They decided to handle the rest of them later, perhaps this weekend.
An interesting anecdote: Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he objected to the title, “Free Flow of Information Act,” saying it suggests that everything should be open, including information that could threaten national security. Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, responded, saying, “In a democracy I kind of like the free flow of information… especially when it protects law enforcement and national security issues.”
Well said, Mr. Leahy.