Skip to main content

Shield Law Is Dead Duck In Lame Duck

A federal shield law will not get a vote in the lame duck session of Congress, says Kathy Kirby, partner at Wiley Rein and counsel to the Radio-Television News Directors Association, which had pushed for the bill. But she says she has assurances it will be reintroduced early in the next session.

The bill, which would protect journalists and their sources from overreaching prosecutors while carving out exceptions for national security, medical and proprietary business information, has the backing of both President-Elect Barack Obama and John McCain.

The bill passed in the House, but was strongly opposed by the Justice Department. At least one Republican senator put a hold on the bill--it only takes one.

The session began this week and could extent into next week, and perhaps even after the Thanksgiving holiday break.

The administration had threatened to veto the bill and Attorney General Michael Mukasey said “10 angels swearing on Bibles” in support of the bill would not change his view that it has major flaws.

Bill backers felt they had at least the 60 senators necessary to life the hold, but 30 hours of debate is also required, and she said there were just to many other things that took precedence with the legislators.

The shield law bill was introduced with high hopes and bipartisan support in May 2007, with the current session of Congress thought to be the most likely venue for passage in decades, but problems arose over the definition of journalists covered--bloggers, for instance--and from the administration over its impact on investigations related to national security and terrorism.

Kirby says that the bill will be reintroduced by its chief backers, Rep. Mike Pence, who spearheaded the House version, and Senator Richard Lugar, both Indiana Republicans.