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Several million of you have called or met with your Senators over the last few weeks and have expressed your opposition to the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The grassroots campaign has been enormously successful in having prominent Senators retreat from their support of PIPA and commit to voting no to ensure that PIPA receives a thorough vetting. That being said, I have noticed a trend in statements by Senators that gives the appearance that they are listening to your opposition, but ultimately will vote for the bill next week.
On Capitol Hill, these are known as “non-statements,” and they are designed to relax an agitated constituent and lull them into a state of complacency before ultimately disappointing them (by doing the opposite of what they asked).
For example, when your Senator states the following:
“I hear your concerns and will ensure that critical changes are made.”
“I will not vote for PIPA in its current form.”
“I will work to make important changes.”
“I will vote against the bill as currently written.”
These all mean they are probably going to vote YES on cloture (the 60 votes needed to move legislation through the Senate) and YES on a manager’s amendment that supporters will declare fixes all of the problems (whether that is true or not). This also means that these Senators believe that voting on the newly amended bill would require no input from first amendment experts, engineers, venture capitalists, or the rest of the American public.
However, if your Senator states the following:
“I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor.”
“Put me down for NO on PIPA.”
“The potential impact of this legislation is too far-reaching to ram it through Congress in such an abrupt way.”
“I’m going to vote NO on PIPA and SOPA. The Internet is too important to our economy.”
Then it is highly likely that your Senator will vote NO in order to ensure the bill is given a proper vetting by the American public and does not inadvertently harm the Internet economy, free speech, or the Internet’s structure. In other words, these Senators are unwilling to gamble on the future of the Internet by rushing to a decision and think it is important to take the extra time necessary to do this right.
So if you received one of the “non-statement” responses over these last few weeks when you contacted your elected officials, they probably need more convincing to actually vote against PIPA next week on the 24th. To really change their minds and ensure they represent your interest, you need to call them back and demand a real commitment of NO on PIPA.