Drama surrounding proposed cybersecurity legislation that’s been brewing for weeks in Congress finally could be coming to resolution.
The Hill reported this week that Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said the Senate would start considering his bill by next week’s end. Lieberman, along with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, sponsored the Cybersecurity Act, which includes tougher privacy protections and authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to set mandatory standards for critical infrastructure.
The White House and Senate Democrats have endorsed the bill, but several Senate Republicans have opposed it for being too restrictive on private business.
Lieberman is working with Collins and Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on the draft.
“[Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid has been really definitive and I appreciate that,” Lieberman told The Hill. “We’re working to put together a draft for him. We’re trying to get as much agreement as we can on the two more controversial parts, information sharing and what I call standards, or performance requirements.”
It’s possible they’ll include elements of a compromise bill from Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, who presented an alternative to the Cybersecurity Act that might be more palatable to dissenting Republicans. Kyl and Whitehouse’s bill contains some critical infrastructure provisions that may be of interest to those revising the Cybersecurity Act.
"It's a big decision for us," Lieberman told The Hill. "They're still talking. I don't think they're going to reach an agreement with a lot of the people who are most concerned about the critical infrastructure part before the bill comes to the floor."
Including components from Kyl and Whitehouse’s legislation would improve the Cybersecurity Act’s chances of getting the 60 votes required for approval.
The Hill story made no mention of any advance of SECURE IT (Strengthening and Enhancing Cybersecurity by Using Research, Education, Information, and Technology Act), which Senate Republicans were pushing as early as March 2012.
Cybersecurity legislation has been circulating in Congress for months now, as lawmakers have recognized the how vulnerable the nation’s computer systems are to intrusion and data theft. In late April, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation called CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. CISPA, its backers say, was intended to enable information sharing between the federal government and the private sector. But privacy advocates and CISPA opponents worried the potential for abuse was too great. CISPA has not made it through the Senate, and President Obama has threatened to veto the bill.
The Cybersecurity Act is an alternative that has sprung forth in the months since.