You may think a rousing debate over protection of intellectual property versus Internet censorship would be what caused a stir during yesterday's Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) hearing by the House Judiciary Committee, which was set to vote on a revised bill.
And while that was the case, a bigger stir was caused by a tweet from a committee member who wasn't exactly riveted but the subject matter. CNET has more:
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.
CNET goes on to report Jackson Lee calling King's tweet offensive, which is a House rules no-no. CNET goes on to report the exchange that happened from there:
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.
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?"
CNET says Jackson Lee would only agree if King issued an apology. But there was one problem. King wasn't even there to do so. With that, Jackson Lee went to the parliamentarian for procedure and decided upon striking that word and merely calling King's tweet "impolitic and unkind," according to CNET.
After this exchange, the committee did eventually get back to the topic at hand. In a separate article, CNET reports that after 12 hours of debate, support for SOPA was widespread among committee members:
The committee vote totals on the try-to-fix-SOPAamendments varied but revealed that two-thirds to three-quarters of the members of the Judiciary committee were staunch allies of the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America and would tolerate no changes.
"The bill is a good one and I look forward to reporting it out of committee," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, a longtime copyright hawk, and founder of the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus.
Debate will continue Friday on the bill that critics, including Google and Wikipedia, consider Internet censorship. Earlier this week, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said SOPA would lead to "criminalization of the Internet" and compared it to censorship taking place in countries such as China. The committee is set to wrap-up and vote on the bill today.