SOPA votes derailed by politician's 'offensive' tweet

SOPA votes derailed by politician's 'offensive' tweet

Summary: A marathon debate in the House of Representatives on the Stop Online Piracy Act came to a halt after a snarky post from Twitter surfaced.

TOPICS: Piracy, Legal

A marathon debate today in the House of Representatives on the Stop Online Piracy Act wasn't derailed by procedural questions, even though not one hearing had been held on how the law would actually work.

It wasn't derailed by questions about SOPA's substance, even though legal scholars and technologists have said it could suppress free speech by virtually deleting Web sites accused of copyright infringement.

Instead, today's markup of SOPA in the House Judiciary committee was derailed by a snarky post on Twitter. (See CNET's FAQ on SOPA,/a>.)

The tweet in question came from Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a pro-gun, anti-abortion conservative who wrote that: "We are debating the Stop Online Piracy Act and Shiela Jackson [sic] has so bored me that I'm killing time by surfing the Internet."

That would be Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat who's a notoriously combative member of Congress and was named the "meanest" by the Washingtonian magazine. She didn't take kindly to being called boring.

Jackson Lee objected. And the hearing ground to a sudden halt.

It was her use of the O-word--"offensive"--that interrupted the steady flow of amendments that critics were offering to SOPA, which were being merrily defeated one after another by the pro-SOPA majority on the committee.

It's inappropriate "to have a member of the Judiciary committee be so offensive," Jackson Lee said.

Unfortunately for audience members who might have appreciated the relative merits of a colloquy between Jackson Lee and her Twitter-ing interlocutor, King wasn't actually in the room by the time she discovered the alarming tweet.

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), the committee's previous chairman and an old parliamentary hand, leaped to his Republican colleague's defense, suggesting that the clerk delete the word "offensive" from the official record. Jackson Lee refused.

Rep. Lamar Smith, a SOPA-loving Texas Republican who's the chairman of the committee, renewed that request. He had apparently concluded that unlike "boring," her use of the word "offensive" violated House rules. (See CNET's profile of Smith.)

He asked Jackson Lee to formally withdraw her remark. She refused.

Smith tried again, saying that he was trying to "avoid making an official ruling" to the effect that Jackson Lee "impugned the integrity of a member of this committee." Would she "consider having just that one word stricken from the record?"

Jackson Lee again refused. She wanted King to "give the committee an apology."

But he wasn't there. And the important question of integrity-impugning had to be resolved. The committee members waited for the stenographer to read Jackson Lee's precise remarks back from the official transcript.

House rules, as you might imagine, provide procedures for how to deal with "disorderly words" and "unparliamentary language."

One option: "In many instances, the Chair will observe that debate is becoming personal and approaching a violation of the rules, in which case he may simply request that Members proceed in order."

But when a politico is in another building, or perhaps even in another city, and commenting through Twitter, that venerable option to promote civility (dating back to 1837) doesn't exactly work.

Jackson Lee consulted with the committee's parliamentarian. Everyone else waited.

Finally, the resolution: Jackson Lee relented. She wanted to have "just that one word stricken from the record."

Instead of King's tweet being "offensive," Jackson Lee concluded, she would merely deem it "impolitic and unkind."

King, by the way, has remained impenitent, and perhaps even amused. His last tweet says: "Judging from the many responses of my critics, they've never heard of multitasking and need to, in the words of Cain, get a sense of humor."

The committee resumed debate and a series of votes, typically by a margin of around 12 to 22, siding with the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and their allies. By the end of the day, SOPA remained entirely intact.

About Declan McCullagh
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.

Topics: Piracy, Legal

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  • We see that ...

    ... in debating a measure which will put America once again in the position of interfering with other nations affairs ... that the best we can expect is childish inattention and petty squabbling.<br><br>You want offensive?<br><br>1. You guys are ****** *******!<br>2. 95% of the rest of the world's computing power aligned against you.
  • RE: SOPA votes derailed by politician's 'offensive' tweet

    OMG . . . for a short while the word "offensive" became a bigger issue than hijacking American rights via SOPA . . . UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!
    • RE: SOPA votes derailed by politician's 'offensive' tweet


      Slight correction... The rights guaranteed and protected by the bill of rights are inalienable, for all people's of the entire world. Which makes it suck even more that legislation like SOPA will affect not just US citizens which are guaranteed protection of those natural rights but the entire world... even those living under what we as American's consider to be oppressive regimes. And for whom do we oppress the inalienable rights of the entire world? Large multi-billion dollar industries. Ironic isn't it?
      • RE: SOPA votes derailed by politician's 'offensive' tweet What are you talking about? The U.S. Bill of Rights certainly does not apply to all peoples of the entire world. The rest of the inhabitants of earth are, of course, born with those same rights, but unlike us, they have not managed to establish governments and promulgate documents which categorically prohibit governmental abridgement of those rights, as we have.
      • RE: SOPA votes derailed by politician's 'offensive' tweet THANK YOU. Finally someone gets it!<br><br>@CSwa913102 What he is talking about is the framers' intent, and the actual words of the document. The Constitution's Bill of Rights (there is no such thing as the U.S. BoR) as well as the whole document, is a statement of inalienable rights by ALL people. As our framers felt the role of gov't was to preserve these rights against assault, this was NOT limited to U.S. citizens, but rather to anyone where the U.S. gov't is reasonably in a position to have these rights defended. It is a misreading of the document to believe that, for instance, Mexican non-U.S. citizens, for example, arrested in the U.S., do not have the right of habeas corpus. Where the gov't of the U.S. is in a position to safe guard these rights, they are obligated to do so. While the U.S. gov't is thus not obligated to protect Syrians in Syria from indefinite detention, they most certainly are obligated to do so for Syrians detained here.<br>If you beg to differ, please indicate where in the Constitution it states otherwise.
  • We see bullcrap once in a while but this is just...

    Offensive? PLEASE. This is America? I'm not American and I know about freedom and liberty, and how EVERYTHING in America practically revolves around those terms! This is just becoming ridiculous; SOPA and this debate is a waste of time! Politicians who stand up for this case are complete hypocrites! Freedom? If the bill passes, then there will be no such thing as freedom from those who didn't have the right to choose! What democracy is there? What freedom? Freedom of speech will be disabled, freedom to innovate and develop further with technologies will stop due to copyright infringement and information blocking! Seriously, America. Be wise enough to think about the consequences you get out of this! And you call yourself a free country? It's not JUST the people with the big money that gets to make the decision... hell! What do they have to lose anyway? What about the others? What about people who will be affected outside of America? Do you know how many people will lose their job here? Gosh! It'll be another downfall of the world economy because so many investments made by large corps and organizations will be taken away, and those people who work for those small investments will lose everything they have! How about students, people who study and work to innovate and create better solutions for the world? Actually, do you know how this will also affect other countries around the world? Please think twice before making the decision. Mind the scale of the consequences for both sides.
    • RE: SOPA votes derailed by politician's 'offensive' tweet

      When the "99%" have nothing left, the "1%" will not survive. When enough people say "If I have nothing left to lose from the change in government", then the government will go along with those controlling that government.
  • RE: SOPA votes derailed by politician's 'offensive' tweet

    Oh, and that is coming from someone who ain't even 20 yet. Anyone would find this act to be completely ridiculous! I mean, I get that about the music industry, the pirated movies and all, but this is the whole Internet we're talking about! The decision of politicians in America -only- cannot be the one to govern the whole cybernetic world. Pffft. I don't even think they know more than 10% of it's whole capacity. Seriously, though. Stop SOPA. It's a waste of time and effort; and even if it does pass, they'll face the consequences as well somehow.
  • RE: SOPA votes derailed by politician's 'offensive' tweet

    SOPA aside, this is just another fine example of what we are paying dear money for these ignorant, time-wasting, tax-to-the-death, yes -boring, yes - offensives, and I mean you, Ms. Lee, to do. The whole lot of them should go home. At least they won't be doing harm while they're gone... or perhaps they would. It is shameful!!!!
    • As an example they all should be tried for crimes against humanity and shot

      @wishdr@... not one of the 535 that isn't guilty of some high crime.... they can't help themselves, you can't seem to get elected if you aren't a criminal through and through.
      Reality Bites
  • RE: SOPA votes derailed by politician's 'offensive' tweet

    Perhaps Jackson Lee should add an amendment to shut down any site that hosts offensive, impolitic or unkind speech. Then the Fed's could shut down the entire Internet and the movie/music officials would be completely happy.
    • except...

      @ccwis5@... The movie/music industries would be happy, except that 90% of their product contains offensive, impolitic, or unkind content.
    • riaa don't want to shut it down...

      @ccwis5@... they just want you to send them all your money for ever and get nothing at all in return.

      riaa just another bunch of greedy arrogant parasites.
      Reality Bites
  • We have the best Congress money can buy.

    A century or so ago Will Rogers supposedly said we have the best Congress money can buy. I doubt that he had any clue how badly the situation would deteriorate over time. The music and movie industries have given large enough bribes to Congressmen that they'll probably do it to us. One can hope that well-heeled major victims of this travesty like Google and Facebook will file a first amendment suit and will have better lawyers than those of the music and movie industries' stooges in government.
    • RE: SOPA votes derailed by politician's 'offensive' tweet

      The First Amendment is a qualified right as is obvious to ALL judges. Google Inc has faced me in Court for three+ years and no amount of money they spend will make 2+2 into five. SOPA does not make "fair-use" constitutional. SOPA doesn't make USC 17 recognize an individual right that can't be owned by a corporation.

      GAME OVER -- SOPA or no SOPA
      • RE: SOPA votes derailed by politician's 'offensive' tweet

        @Curtis-Neeley<br>Lack of SOPA does not likewise make fair use (no hyphen, BTW) unConstitutional. Nothing in the Constitution prohibits the granting of transactional rights to the purchasers of content.
    • RE: SOPA votes derailed by politician's 'offensive' tweet

      @AES2 or maybe the worst congress that money can buy?
  • RE: SOPA votes derailed by politician's 'offensive' tweet

    ya know, if petty bickering will slow down passage of this bill, then I am all for more petty bickering.
    • RE: SOPA votes derailed by politician's 'offensive' tweet


      I second that!
  • Ha....And 2

    This bill will be irrelevant after the FCC is ordered to regulate Internet wires they are currently ignoring. The "interactive computer service" should be stated to mean a response from a database or other search that depends on the users text input to then interact. Static HTML or JPGs are NOT interactive unless created dynamically by a computer responding to a textual query. Most of the Internet is not an interactive computer service but delivery of static creations after located and generally by a Google Inc Interactive search.