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Cybersecurity Act goes down to defeat in Senate

02 August 2012

The Senate failed on Thursday to pass the Cybersecurity Act (S 3414) despite months of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans and significant modifications of the legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) failed in his effort to hold a vote on the bill on Thursday; a cloture motion he filed to end debate and hold a vote was defeated by a vote of 52-46, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

With the November election on the senators' minds, the failure to hold a vote on S 3414 means that significant cybersecurity legislation is unlikely to pass the Senate before the November election, given the partisan tone of the debate surrounding the bill.

The Cybersecurity Act is based on a comprehensive cybersecurity legislative proposal put forward by the Obama administration last year. However, it has been significantly modified in response to critics on both the right and left of the political spectrum. The sponsors of the bill, led by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), agreed to drop government mandates on industry and to beef up privacy protections for information sharing.

The White House lobbied hard to pass even this watered down version, sending heavy hitters such as Gen. Keith Alexander, head of both the National Security Agency and the US Cyber Command, to Capitol Hill to persuade Republican senators to support the measure.

In the end, opposition from industry groups, particularly the US Chamber of Commerce, doomed the bill. The chamber even threatened to use a vote in favor of the bill against senators in the organization’s annual How They Voted scorecard.

The White House criticized the Senate for failing to pass the bill. “Despite the President’s repeated calls for Congress to act on this legislation, and despite pleas from numerous senior national security officials from this Administration and the Bush Administration, the politics of obstructionism, driven by special interest groups seeking to avoid accountability, prevented Congress from passing legislation to better protect our nation from potentially catastrophic cyber-attacks”, said White House press secretary Jay Carney.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-Ky.) blamed the bill's failure on Reid's decision to limit debate on the bill. “An issue of this importance deserves serious consideration and open debate. Instead, the Majority Leader waited until the last week before August to even take it up. Rather than give this issue the time and attention it deserves, Democrat leaders brought it up with only three days left before a recess, and then tried to jam something through without any chance for amendment", he said in a statement.

This article is featured in:
Compliance and Policy  •  Industry News  •  Internet and Network Security  •  Public Sector


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