House and Senate members staring down difficult reelection races less than one year away face a tough decision as opposition to two Internet anti-piracy bills continues to mount.

The two bills — the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Protect IP Act in the Senate — were championed by the entertainment industry as measures to prevent foreign websites from promoting copyright infringement with impunity. But a recent backlash from free-speech advocates, Internet giants and even President Obama has lowered the probability that Congress will enact them as drafted.

ADVERTISEMENT
Both bills have roughly an even number of Republicans and Democrats signed on as co-sponsors, making it difficult for members to apply to this hot-button issue their usual calculus about where they want to position themselves on the ideological spectrum.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioGOP, Dems hear different things from Trump Senate committee to vote Monday on Tillerson Tillerson met with top State official: report MORE (R-Fla.) on Wednesday withdrew his co-sponsorship in the Senate, while Republican Reps. Lee Terry (Neb.) and Ben Quayle (Ariz.) have backed away in the House. Sen. Jerry MoranJerry MoranOvernight Tech: Tech listens for clues at Sessions hearing | EU weighs expanding privacy rule | Senators blast Backpage execs Senate rejects Paul's balanced budget Republicans add three to Banking Committee MORE (R-Kan.) signed on in June but pulled his name days later.

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchOvernight Defense: Senate to vote on defense picks Friday | 41 detainees left at Gitmo | North Korea may be prepping missile launch Congressional leaders unite to protect consumers Mnuchin weathers stormy confirmation hearing MORE (R-Utah), who faces a serious primary threat, yanked his support for the Senate bill on Wednesday, calling it “not ready for prime time.”

“Rushing something with such potential for far-reaching consequences is something I cannot support, and that’s why I will not only vote against moving the bill forward next week but also remove my co-sponsorship of the bill,” Hatch said in a statement. He also sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThe DC bubble is strangling the DNC Dems want Sessions to recuse himself from Trump-Russia probe Ryan says Trump, GOP 'in complete sync' on ObamaCare MORE (D-Nev.) last week suggesting he put off a scheduled vote on Tuesday.

In each of the two chambers, there are about a dozen members who are still on board with the bills but whose less-than-certain reelection prospects have raised the possibility that they could retreat from the legislation before further damage is done.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), embroiled in the most closely watched Senate race in the country, has already said he will vote against the bill.

But Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownMajor progressive group unveils first 2018 Senate endorsements Congressional leaders unite to protect consumers Mnuchin weathers stormy confirmation hearing MORE (D-Ohio) has signed on as a co-sponsor — he faces a difficult reelection fight against Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) in November.

Other vulnerable Democrats up for reelection in 2012 who have backed the Senate bill include Sens. Bill NelsonBill NelsonLive coverage: Senators grill Trump's Treasury pick Trump's Commerce pick admits to unknowingly hiring undocumented worker Senate Democrats brace for Trump era MORE (Fla.)and Bob CaseyBob CaseyLive coverage: Senators grill Trump's Treasury pick Live coverage: Tom Price's confirmation hearing Senate Democrats brace for Trump era MORE Jr. (Pa.). 

Even non-incumbent candidates who won’t have to vote on the measures were pulled into the fray, including businessman John Brunner, the front-running Republican aiming to take on Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillWashington Post reporter compares DC rioters to Boston Tea Party Dem senator: Violent inauguration protesters ‘disgusting’ Five things to watch for in Mnuchin hearing MORE (D-Mo.) in November.

“As a United States senator, I will oppose all efforts to dismantle a free and open Internet,” Brunner said in a statement.

Top Democratic leaders who are not up for reelection — including Sens. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerDemocrats and the boycott of Trump's inauguration The Hill's 12:30 Report Why Democrats fear a successful inaugural address from Trump MORE (N.Y.) and Dick DurbinDick DurbinJustice requires higher standard than Sessions Warren burns Mnuchin over failure to disclose assets Trump Treasury pick to defend foreclosure record MORE (Ill.) — are also on board.

In the House, the chairman of the Democratic Caucus, Rep. John Larson (Conn.), and the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), are both on board. So is Rep. John BarrowJohn BarrowDem files Ethics complaint on Benghazi panel Barrow thanks staff in farewell speech The best and the worst of the midterms MORE (D-Ga.), whose district was made much more difficult for him by redistricting. Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.), who won his 2010 reelection by less than two points, is also a co-sponsor.

California Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman have both added their names to the House bill. The two Democrats, who have a similar voting record, were pitted against each other in redistricting, and will need to find areas where they can draw contrasts ahead of a primary contest that will determine who will have a chance to keep his seat in the House.


— This story was updated at 8:44 p.m.