Those darn gas prices…

Gas prices are affecting everything these days — even important Senate votes:

Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP)–A bill to protect journalists from having to reveal their
sources in some federal courts stalled in the Senate on Wednesday, the latest victim of
a partisan fight over what to do about gas prices.

Republicans blocked the measure, saying the Senate should act instead on an energy bill
that would promote more domestic oil and gas production.

Democrats wanted to put aside the energy measure to debate and pass the media bill,
which would shield reporters from being forced by federal prosecutors to reveal their
sources, except in certain circumstances.

Anti-terrorism cases are exempted, for example, as is information that could stop a
murder or kidnapping.

On a 51-43 vote, the bill fell nine votes short of the 60 it would have needed to move
forward over the GOP objections.

The Bush administration and many congressional Republicans are strongly opposed to the
media shield, arguing the bill could damage national security by harming prosecutors’
ability to track leaks.

Proponents argue that confidentiality has been crucial to journalists’ pursuit of
important stories, and that a recent flurry of attempts to compel reporters to cough up
their sources’ identities is proof that the legislation is needed.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said the measure “protects both the freedom of the
press and the security of our citizens. In a free and democratic country, we should be
able to do both.”

Republicans said they were uncomfortable about limiting the legislation to certain
people, contending the government shouldn’t determine who gets journalistic protections
and who doesn’t.

“Congress would be deciding who is a legitimate journalist and who is not, and I, for
one, am not comfortable with the federal government licensing journalists,” said Sen.
John Cornyn, R-Texas.

The bipartisan group pushing the bill was offering changes to address GOP

Their proposal would have made it easier for prosecutors to compel reporters to reveal
sources in cases involving leaks of classified information.

It defined a journalist as anyone who regularly gathers and reports information of
public interest with the intent of disseminating it to the public.

Proponents of a federal shield law got momentum from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s
decision to subpoena reporters to testify against I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, once a
White House aide, in a case that grew out of Fitzgerald’s leak investigation. Libby was
convicted of obstruction, perjury and lying to the FBI; his sentence was commuted by
President Bush.

“Reporters have been intimidated — a chilling effect — by the subpoenas which have been
issued,” said Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the lead Republican sponsor.

A similar measure overwhelmingly passed the House in October.