House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) acknowledged Wednesday that there’s a lack of agreement among lawmakers on how to progress on the Stop Online Piracy Act, one of two recent anti-piracy bills that have spurred online companies such as Wikipedia and others to black out their Web sites in protest.
“Listen, this bill is in committee,” Boehner told reporters at the Capitol Wednesday morning. “They’ve had a number of hearings. This is going through a markup. And it’s pretty clear to many of us that there’s a lack of consensus at this point. And I would expect that the committee would continue to work to try to build a consensus before this bill moves.”
Asked whether he believed the move by Wikipedia and others was a publicity stunt, Boehner declined to say.
As the House returned to Washington for its second full legislative day of 2012, few lawmakers who took to the floor Wednesday morning focused their remarks on the issue of SOPA.
Rather, remarks made by former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) on the campaign trail became the focus of a few minutes of heated debate, as did the Obama administration’s reported decision to reject a permit application for the construction of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.
Still, some members of both parties opposed to SOPA weighed in via written statements on Wednesday.
“I support strong efforts to curb piracy and protect intellectual property, but SOPA and PIPA create unacceptable threats to free speech and free access to the Internet,” Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) said in a statement. “I have heard from many of my constituents in Northwest Washington who are deeply concerned about the potential impacts of SOPA and PIPA. Online piracy is a serious problem that costs U.S. businesses billions of dollars.”
He added that “government agencies must be empowered to stop and prosecute intellectual property thieves. But in doing so we cannot undermine freedom of speech or jeopardize the free flow of information on the Internet.”
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in a statement that SOPA and the other anti-piracy bill making its way through the House, the Protect IP Act, “are threats to the openness, freedom, and innovation of the Internet.”
“I applaud the Internet community, including the thousands of blogs and websites that have decided to go dark today, for participating in our democracy and opening up the debate on legislation to the public,” he said.
Issa, whose committee had originally scheduled a hearing for Wednesday on DNS blocking, said that “this unprecedented effort has turned the tide against a backroom lobbying effort by interests that aren’t use to being told ‘no.’”
“I know suspending and changing access to sites was not necessarily an easy decision, but this a responsible and transparent exercise of freedom of speech,” he added.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a statement that “stealing content is theft, plain and simple, but concerns about the Internet and free speech necessitate a more thoughtful, deliberative process.”
“Texans have soundly rejected the ‘pass now, learn later’ approach that we saw with Obamacare, and the potential impact of this legislation is too far-reaching to ram it through Congress in such an abrupt way,” he said.
And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who had been among the leading proponents of SOPA, announced via Facebook Wednesday morning that he was dropping his support for the measure.