WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday to nix an upcoming vote on Protect IP, a major anti-piracy bill that Internet experts warn poses grave dangers to the Web's functionality.
Reid, who formally supports the bill, said on Sunday that he would proceed with a vote on a revised version despite a public statement of opposition from the White House a day earlier.
"While we must combat the on-line theft of intellectual property, current proposals in Congress raise serious legal, policy and operational concerns," McConnell said in a statement. "Rather than prematurely bringing the Protect IP Act to the Senate floor, we should first study and resolve the serious issues with this legislation. Considering this bill without first doing so could be counterproductive to achieving the shared goal of enacting appropriate and additional tools to combat the theft of intellectual property. I encourage the Senate majority to reconsider its decision to proceed to this bill."
The bill lost several prominent supporters, including many original co-sponsors, on Wednesday, amid high-profile online protests in which major websites Wikipedia, reddit and others blocked access to their content. Nevertheless, opponents had continued to worry they did not have the votes to prevent the bill from coming up for a vote.
McConnell spokesman Don Stewart stopped short of issuing a filibuster threat, when asked if McConnell's opposition indicated that Republicans would prevent the bill from coming up for a vote on the Senate floor.
"It’s an encouragement to withdraw the bill while they study and resolve the serious issues in the bill," Stewart said. "There seems to be bipartisan support for that point of view."
A request for comment from Democratic leadership was not immediately returned.
Protect IP and its House companion, SOPA, would grant the government and corporations broad powers to shut down Web sites they believe are engaged in copyright infringement -- without a trial or a traditional court hearing. Internet experts warn that the tactics deployed in these Web site take-downs would endanger cybersecurity and the technical functioning of the Web. Supporters of the legislation, which include Hollywood movie studios and major record labels, have insisted the measures are necessary to combat online piracy.
Sam Stein contributed reporting.