The Senate Thursday took up a long-delayed bill to secure the nation’s power grid, water supply and telecommunications system from cyberattack by hackers or foreign enemies.
But it was unclear whether the bill, which has languished in one form or another for more than five years, will have enough votes to overcome procedural hurdles and get a vote on the chamber floor.
One of the bill’s backers, Connecticut independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman, urged colleagues to allow the bill to move forward, so the Senate could “begin the crucial debate about how best to protect our national and economic security in this wired world where threats come not from land, sea or sky — but in invisible strings of ones and zeroes.”
Holding up a quick agreement have been provisions of the proposed law that would give the Department of Homeland Security authority to set standards for computer security at thousands of private facilities such as power stations or oil refineries.
Opponents, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argue the bill would impose burdensome regulation on vital industries.
“In its present form,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, “the bill before us would do more harm than …. anything else.”
Mr. McCain is one of a number of Republican senators who have backed alternative proposals which they hoped to offer as amendments if the bill is debated on the floor.
“As long as we have an open amendment process, we will be able to move to a vote” on the bill, said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Texas Republican. Congressional staffers said floor debate on amendments could start as early as Tuesday afternoon, with a vote likely by the end of the week.