GOP leader McConnell asks Senate Dems to shelve anti-piracy bill

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSanders: I hope McConnell listened to protesters outside his office 43 arrested in ObamaCare repeal protests at Capitol Four Senate conservatives say they oppose ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-Ky.) called on Senate Democrats to shelve the Protect IP Act on Thursday, one day after a massive Web protest against the controversial anti-piracy measure.

“While we must combat the on-line theft of intellectual property, current proposals in Congress raise serious legal, policy and operational concerns," McConnell said. 

“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.”

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Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDems see surge of new candidates Dems to grind Senate to a halt over ObamaCare repeal fight GOP fires opening attack on Dem reportedly running for Heller's Senate seat MORE (D-Nev.) has scheduled a procedural vote on the legislation for Tuesday afternoon, but McConnell's announcement is a devastating blow to the bill's chances of receiving the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and proceed to a final vote.

Support for the Protect IP Act and its House counterpart, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), began crumbling on Wednesday when thousands of websites staged an unprecedented protest against the measures.

Google, the most visited site in the world, plastered a black censorship bar over its logo. Wikipedia blacked out its English-version site and greeted visitors with an ominous warning: “Imagine a world without free knowledge.”  

GOP Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchLive coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill Grassley doesn't see how Judiciary 'can avoid' obstruction probe Ryan calls for tax reform to be permanent MORE (Utah), Marco RubioMarco RubioIvanka Trump turns to House GOP on paid family leave Ivanka Trump weighs in on awkward hug with Rubio: ‘Fake news’ Rubio, Ivanka Trump joke about their 'alleged failed hug' MORE (Fla.), Roy BluntRoy BluntGOP senator: 'No reason' to try to work with Dems on healthcare GOP senator slams proposed NIH cuts: ‘No one should have to defend’ them Senate panel readies must-pass aviation bill MORE (Mo.), John BoozmanJohn BoozmanLobbying World The Hill's 12:30 Report GOP leader tempers ObamaCare expectations MORE (Ark.) and Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteOPINION: Democracy will send ISIS to the same grave as communism Kelly Ayotte joins defense contractor's board of directors Week ahead: Comey firing dominates Washington MORE (N.H.) had signed on as co-sponsors of the Protect IP Act, but by Thursday, all of them had switched their position in the face of voter anger.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP senator: Comey must say if FBI investigated Sessions Grassley doesn't see how Judiciary 'can avoid' obstruction probe Trump attacks wind power in state that gets nearly third of energy from wind MORE (Iowa), the Judiciary Committee's top Republican, has also said he opposes the bill in its current form, but has not withdrawn his co-sponsorship. 

No Senate Democrat has abandoned their support for the legislation from Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyGoing national with automatic voter registration Republicans slam Trump’s new policy toward Cuba Trump draws a harder line on Cuba MORE (D-Vt.), but several who had not yet taken a position came out against the measure after Wednesday's protests.

An aide to the Senate Judiciary Committee said Leahy is working with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and others to find a way forward for the legislation.

The piracy bills are designed to go after foreign websites that offer illegal copies of movies, music and TV shows. The bills would empower the Justice Department and copyright holders to demand that search engines delete links to sites deemed to be “dedicated” to copyright infringement. Ad networks and payment processors would be prohibited from doing business with the sites.

Movie studios, record labels and business groups say the legislation would cut down on illegal file sharing, which is hurting companies and eliminating jobs.

But Web companies warn the bills would stifle innovation and censor free speech. They say the legislation would impose an unreasonable burden on websites to police user-generated content and could lead to legitimate websites being shut down.

House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has vowed to move forward with SOPA next month. 

This story was last updated at 6:24 p.m.