Action on the Stop Online Piracy Act moved right along today in the House Judiciary Committee where one modification after another was defeated by lopsided votes — until a notoriously prickly Texas Democrat didn’t take kindly to remarks by a Republican. The remarks in question came from Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who tweeted 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.” The target of his disdain was Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who’s so notoriously contrary that the Washingtonian magazine has dubbed her the “meanest” member of Congress. Jackson Lee objected. And the hearing ground to a S.T.O.P. It was unacceptable “to have a member of the Judiciary committee be so offensive,” Jackson Lee said. But King was not on the premises by the time she became aware of his tweet. If the two had been in the same room, that would have been entertaining. Jackson’s use of the word “offensive” proved even more problematic than King’s use of “boring.” It seems that parliamentary tradition doesn’t allow fellow members to describe each other as “offensive.” So negotiations began to persuade Jackson Lee to allow her comment to be deleted from the official record. She balked. The single offending word? Nope. SOPA co-author Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) explained 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.” Again, nope. She wanted King to “give the committee an apology.” Which he couldn’t do because he wasn’t there. Jackson Lee consulted the committee’s parliamentarian. Finally, Jackson Lee relented. She agreed to have “just that one word stricken from the record.” Instead of King’s tweet being “offensive,” Jackson Lee would call it “impolitic and unkind.” The panel resumed defeating proposed amendments usually by a margin of 22 to 12, siding with the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and their allies. At the end of the day, SOPA remained intact. King remained above and remote of the fray: “Judging from the many responses of my critics, they’ve never heard of multitasking and need to, in the words of Cain, get a sense of humor.”
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