PROTECT IP Act May Move Toward Vote in January 2012

On December 17, 2011, Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced a “cloture” motion to “bring to a close” the debate on the motion to allow the PROTECT IP Act (S. 968) to be considered on the floor of the Senate, about which Senator Wyden has been successful so far in placing “on hold.”

To the non-Washington-insiders among us (myself included), a “cloture motion” is an archaic expression that requires definition. According to Black’s Law Dictionary (West 6th ed. 1991), a cloture is a “legislative rule or procedure whereby unreasonable debate (i.e., filibuster) is ended to permit vote to be taken.” The term filibuster is defined as “tactics designed to obstruct and delay legislative action by prolonged and often irrelevant speeches on the floor of the House or Senate.” Id.

Certainly, after Senator Wyden announced that he intended to place a “hold” on floor consideration of the bill, a cloture would be the necessary next step to initiate a Senate-wide vote on the bill.

According to the Congressional Record, the cloture vote is scheduled for January 24, 2012, beginning at 2:15pm. Congr. Rec. S8783 (Dec. 17, 2011) (“Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the cloture vote on the motion to proceed to S. 968 occur at 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday, January 24–that is the day after we start the session–and that the mandatory quorum under rule XXII be waived. . . . The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.”).

Immediately after the cloture was introduced, Senator Wyden again expressed his intent to filibuster the bill. Press release, Dec. 17, 2011 (“Therefore, I will be working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle over the next month to explain the basis for this wide-spread concern and I intend to follow through on a commitment that I made more than a year ago, to filibuster this bill when the Senate returns in January.”).

This statement is repeated in the Congressional Record immediately following Sen. Reid’s request for scheduling, but the Record incorrectly categorized his statement as relating to the “Personal Information Protection Act” (presumably because Sen. Wyden used the acronym “PIPA” in his remarks). Given the duplication between Sen. Wyden’s press release (specifically referring to the Protect IP Act) and this statement on the public record, it appears that the Congressional Record is simply mistaken in this instance.