Democrats and Republicans are both applauding the White House for coming out in support of a cybersecurity bill that lawmakers in the Senate are trying to pass before breaking for recess later this week.
“Cybersecurity is an important national security issue and the Senate should take up this bill as soon as possible and pass it,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz in a statement Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, wants the Cyber Intelligence Sharing Act (CISA) to be brought to a vote as soon as possible and has filed cloture in hopes of having the issue resolved before recess begins on Friday.
Disagreements in the Senate over how many amendments lawmakers will be allowed to offer have complicated his plan, however, and has reportedly prompted politicians on both sides of the aisle to spend Wednesday working on an eleventh hour compromise.
The Senate had been poised to decide that morning on whether or not to move forward with CISA after Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, held up proceedings a day earlier in response to Mr. McConnell’s decision to allow both parties to offer merely 10 amendments each — a deal that some Democrats feared would complicate their ability to iron out any last-minute kinks in the cyber bill.
During morning debate, however, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and CISA proponent, said that a cloture vote on Mr. McConnell’s motion to proceed had been postponed until after 2 p.m.
According to congressional sources familiar with the negotiations, a caucus-wide meeting among Republicans was expected to occur ahead of the afternoon vote in an effort to get both parties on the same page, The Hill reported.
“We need to get on with it,” Ms. Feinstein said on the Senate floor Wednesday morning.
Even with the backing of the executive branch, however, the fate of the bill is far from set in stone. A total of 71 amendments had been proposed as of mid-week, according to congressional records, and critics of the cyber bill have suggested they’ll let CISA sink if proper privacy safeguards aren’t allowed to be considered.
The bill, if passed, would incentivize the private sector to share so-called cyber threat indicators with the government in hopes of giving federal analysts a better understanding of the exponentially increasing number of attacks waged against America’s network. Absent additional safeguards, though, critics say it allows the government too much access to the personal information of ordinary computer users.
“This is not a surveillance bill,” Ms. Feinstein said Wednesday, responding directly to accusations made a day earlier by Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, who cast the only dissenting vote against the legislation when it passed the Senate Intelligence Committee 14-1 earlier this year.
Previous, similarly worded cybersecurity proposals involving data sharing between the private sector and Washington have failed no fewer than three times during the Obama administration.
The recent OPM hack on the heels of other high-profile breaches may give CISA a boost of support, however, even after past incarnations raised privacy concerns within the White House; in 2013, the president’s advisers said they would recommend that Mr. Obama veto the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act because of concerns surrounding privacy, data confidentiality and civil liberties.
“While there are still areas of concern that we hope to address, the bill’s sponsors have made a good faith effort to address some of our biggest concerns,” Mr. Schultz said in support of the current bill this week.