It’s among the most popular bills in Congress, but it’s still stuck in committee.
More than 300 House members—a majority of the body—have signed on as cosponsors to the Email Privacy Act, which would require police to obtain a warrant before accessing emails, Facebook messages, and other private online content. It has vocal support from conservatives such as Reps. Kevin Yoder and Ted Poe, as well as liberals such as Reps. Jared Polis and Sheila Jackson Lee. Getting it passed is one of the top policy priorities for Internet giants such as Google and Yahoo, and it’s even endorsed by antitax crusader Grover Norquist.
But after more than three years of debate, the bill still hasn’t made it to the House floor for a vote. And on Tuesday, a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee made it clear why: The panel’s chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, isn’t backing the bill yet, and his committee perch gives him enough power to keep it from going through.
Goodlatte said Tuesday he supports the “core” of the Email Privacy Act, but he also demanded changes to ensure the bill doesn’t hamper law enforcement. A Goodlatte aide said the hearing “highlighted some issues that need to be addressed” and declined to say when the bill might advance to a vote in the committee.
Goodlatte’s resistance is proving to be a major stumbling block, even though the bill already has more cosponsors than it would need votes to pass.
Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the…