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Politicos prepare for vote on blogger 'shield'

House of Representatives bill is generating fierce debate over the extent to which the "casual blogger" should be protected from revealing confidential sources.

WASHINGTON--A congressional committee debate over whether to immunize journalists--including some bloggers--from revealing confidential sources has been raging on-and-off here for more than an hour, with a final vote on the bill likely to occur this afternoon.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee have just fled their meeting room yet again to tend to votes on the House floor, interrupting the back-and-forth over the so-called Free Flow of Information Act for a second time. Their meeting, which also counted a number of other bills on the agenda, began around 7:15 a.m. PDT.

So far, politicians have been airing a number of gripes about the language in the so-called "reporter's shield" bill, whose approach is supported by major news organizations but opposed by the Bush Administration and some members of Congress. One major issue that still looms large is the extent to which bloggers should be eligible for protection.

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), one of the bill's chief sponsors, has proposed an amendment on Wednesday that attempts to restrict the privilege to those who do journalistic activities "for financial gain or livelihood." But in this age of Google ads and readily available blogging tools, a number of politicians have been questioning whether that distinction makes any difference. They're concerned that anyone could throw up a blog and qualify for the immunity--which, of course, is not absolute and would be subject to a number of exceptions under the bill.

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