For the 17th time,
the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled S. 448, The Free Flow of
Information Act of 2009, for markup in the committee.
The bill gives
journalists a qualified protection from being compelled to give up information
or identify sources, though with a number of carve-outs for national security,
bodily harm, and sensitive personal and business information. It currently tops
the list of bills to be considered at a Dec. 10 business meeting.
The bill has been on
the calendar since spring (and including long-deceased ancestors has been
pushed by journalistic organizations for at least two decades). But it was held
up by the administration until a compromise was struck on some national
security issues, and then by Republicans who thought the balance was still too
far in favor of journalists and argued the compromise had been between people
who already supported the bill, not Republicans with remaining issues.
There were also some
Democrats uncomfortable with a definition of journalists that could include
Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) recessed a Nov. 19 markup hearing (the 16th try) after
Republicans had numerous amendments lined up that would have to be introduced
and debated and voted on, but he warned that unless a manageable list of
amendments could be produced, the bill might be sent directly to the floor,
bypassing the committee approval process.
committee sources said at press time the bill's co-sponsors--led by Chuck
Schumer (D-N.Y.)--were negotiating with the bill's Republican critics--led by
Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), to limit amendments in an attempt to finally vote
the bill. "Maybe tomorrow will be the magic day!," said the source.