October 17, 2007

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Oct. 16, 2007, to create a federal shield law which would offer limited protection for reporters from being compelled to disclose confidential sources.

Shortly before passage, the White House threatened to veto the bill (HR 2102). It passed by an astonishing 398-21 margin, with Republicans abandoning the White House position in droves after the House added an amendment addressing some national security concerns. If that margin held, it would be more than enough to override a veto. A 2/3 vote is needed to override.

Attention now shifts to the Senate, where a similar bill is awaiting floor action.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill (S 2035) by a 15-4 vote. The relative weakness of GOP opposition there suggests that getting it to the floor may be quite feasible. It is easier to block floor consideration of a bill in the Senate than in the House, since 60 votes are needed to cut off debate (cloture) and bring a bill to a vote.