- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2015

Inclusion of cybersecurity legislation within a last-minute spending bill has prompted lawmakers opposed to the proposal to launch an effort to keep Congress from passing the omnibus plan and the embedded Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, or CISA.

The 2009-page omnibus budget plan unveiled on Capitol Hill this week would fund the federal government through the next fiscal year, but has raised concerns among opponents who fear passage would put CISA on the books without any further discussion.

While the Senate and House have each approved incarnations of the bill — an act that would incentivize the private sector to share information about cyberthreats with the federal government— lawmakers on either side of the aisle had failed thus far to put their versions together. Until early Wednesday, that is, when the proposed spending plan was published for the first time and revealed to contain aspects of CISA, among other proposals, likely to be approved in the coming days when lawmakers vote on the package that would keep the government funded through next September.

“I just think it’s very troubling,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, told The Hill. “The bill should not be in the omnibus. It’s a surveillance bill more than a cyber bill.”

“I’m going to vote against the omnibus as a consequence,” she added.Rep. Justin Amash, Michigan Republican, was among the first in Congress to complain this week about inclusion of the cyber bill within the omnibus, expressing his concerns in a letter to colleagues this week in which he noted that neither the details of the negotiations nor the text of the bill had been published in a timely manner.

“There’s plenty wrong with this omnibus, but there’s nothing more egregious than the cyber language they secretly slipped in,” Mr. Amash said in a follow-up with the Hill.

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“There are several provisions in the bill that concern him, but the last-minute addition of the cybersecurity bill is one of the most serious,” added a spokesperson for Rep. Ted Poe, the Texas Republican who also signed his name to the letter sent by Mr. Amash this week alongside colleagues Ms. Lofgren and Rep. Jared Polis, Colorado Democrat.

Although the omnibus could be brought to a vote as early as Friday this week, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, California Republican, told the Hill that mounting concerns over the inclusion of the cyber bill could lead to lawmakers keeping the matter out of conference — and with consequences to the nation’s computer grid.

“Then you have a dead process,” he said. “And you have cyberattacks occurring.”

Following years of failed attempts at getting a cyber bill to the president’s desk, CISA saw bipartisan support from both sides of the aisle in 2015 after a string of cyberattacks waged at government and private computer networks alike amplified fears of further hacks. Because the bill would let companies share data with government agencies, however, critics have been quick to condemn the proposal as an assault on civil liberties — and a “surveillance bill by another name,” as far as Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, has been concerned.

“This ‘cybersecurity’ bill was a bad bill when it passed the Senate and it is an even worse bill today. Americans deserve policies that protect both their security and their liberty. This bill fails on both counts,” Mr. Wyden, a longtime CISA opponent, said in a statement this week.



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