- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Lawmakers have contentious cybersecurity legislation into an omnibus spending plan put together late Tuesday in hopes of having the federal government funded through next fiscal year.

The 2,009-page omnibus bill includes an iteration of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, or CISA, which combines elements from versions that already passed in the House and Senate but has failed so far to leave Capitol Hill for the president’s desk.

With lawmakers slated to vote on the appropriations package as early as Friday in order to ensure government programs are bankrolled through next September, CISA stands its best chance yet at being signed into law.

Following attempts from digital rights groups and tech companies to keep CISA off the books, however, opponents of the cyber bill are already lining up to try and keep Congress from rushing to a vote. In a letter sent to House members this week, a group of four colleagues from both sides of the aisle said they won’t consider the omnibus until the cyber proposal is put before them.

“Reports indicate a new bill is being negotiated by just a handful of members for inclusion in the omnibus,” Republican Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan and Ted Poe of Texas said in a letter also signed by Democratic colleagues Zoe Lofgren of California and Jared Polis of Colorado. “Neither negotiations — nor even bill text — have been made public. We cannot cast such a consequential vote with no input.”

If passed, CISA will encourage private corporations to share information about cyberattacks with the government in hopes of giving federal agencies new details that could be used to disrupt and prevent hacks waged at American computer networks.

Because participating firms would be free from liability, however, privacy advocates and other opponents have said CISA would give corporations the green-light to give away user data — a trade-off between security and privacy that has become a routine component in conversations between Washington and Silicon Valley with regards to revamping U.S. cyber policies in the face of mounting national security concerns brought by state-sponsored hackers.

Evan Greer, the campaign director of Fight for the Future, a digital rights group, said this week that a signature from President Obama on the omnibus would “allow technologically illiterate members of Congress break the Internet in the name of cybersecurity” and said the administration will be urged to veto the legislation.

Without passage of the $1.1 trillion omnibus bill, however, the government risks losing funding through next fiscal year — and yet another chance to codify cybersecurity rules amid a wave of routine attacks that have raised new concerns over protecting the nation’s computer systems.

“While an end-of-the-year omnibus is not the preferred way to do business — it is always better to complete individual bills in a timely fashion — this bill will allow Congress to fulfill its constitutional duty to responsibly fund the federal government and avoid a shutdown,” Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, Kentucky Republican, said in a statement.

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