The Senate Judiciary Committee failed to bring a federal shield law bill to a vote again on Thursday.
RTDNA said it was “disappointed” to learn that the Senate Judiciary Committee failed to bring a federal shield law bill to a vote again on Thursday.
“The continued attempts to give the government the ability to override the shield law would make it a paper shield at best,” said RTDNA Chairman Stacey Woelfel. “While I’m disappointed the committee did not vote to pass the bill today, my hope is that senators can regroup to bring a stronger version of the bill back for consideration as soon as possible.”
The Judiciary Committee Chairman, Patrick Leahy, recessed the session Thursday after it appeared the Republican senators were lining up a number of amendments that supporters felt would weaken the bill. Most opposition at the hearing centered around how the bill defines “journalists’ and how the federal government could override the protections of the law in cases of “national security.” Leahy later warned that the bill may be sent directly to the floor, bypassing the committee, if senators are unable to reach a compromise.
Some Republicans on the committee appear concerned that the current form of the bill — a seeming compromise — is merely a consensus of supporters and does not include dissenting views. Several Republicans have expressed displeasure about a perceived imbalance between the protections for journalists and security issues. The compromise bill, however, would require journalists to disclose information in instances involving matters of national security.
A federal shield law would help journalists protect confidential sources. Currently, most states already protect this right of journalists. But federal lawmakers have been reluctant to grant the same protection from federal subpoenas and other action.