Boucher, Pence Back Senate Version of Shield Bill

Reps. want passage without further amendment; Republicans still raise issues
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House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.) Friday praised the Senate Judiciary Committee for approving a compromise version of the shield law bill.

The two are long-time backers of the legislation, which provides a qualified protection for journalists and their sources from being compelled to give up information to the government. They helped push through a version that has already passed in the House.

But, before anyone breaks out the champagne, what they were praising was the vote to substitute a compromise version of the bill, not to pass the bill out of committee. Republicans still have problems with that compromise, which they say was between parties already backing a bill--Democrats, journalists, the Obama administration--but not with them.

Still, Boucher and Pence said they were pleased with the adoption of the new baseline bill, which includes a carve-out from a judicial balancing test for instances where compelling disclosure prevents potential threats to national security or bodily harm.

The bill differs from the House version, including that carve-out and a broader definition of journalist that can include bloggers. But they also said they want the bill passed without further amendment.

They called the compromise a breakthrough agreement, and a victory for the public's right to know, and said they wanted the bill to pass without further amendment and gain "swift passage" in the Senate. That could be easier said than done.

With time running out, one Hill source favoring passage said the odds are looking long for a presidential signature this year.

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