Alas, No Passage. Senate To Revisit Cybersecurity Bill in September

Senate leaders tried their best to finish a cybersecurity bill this week, but it turned out to be too heavy a lift. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Wednesday that the cybersecurity debate will rest for now and be revisited in September.

The good news is that they now know how the debate will go. Senators have agreed to allow Republicans 10 amendments related to the bill. Democrats will be permitted to offer 11.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) have been the bill’s strongest opponents, but both appear on board to negotiate its progress through the Senate floor. Franken will offer one amendment, and Wyden will have two.

Franken’s amendment aims to tighten how the bill defines a cybersecurity threat and cyber threat indicator. These definitions are central to the implementation of bill because it would promote the speedy sharing of information (both classified and declassified) between private entities and the government, importantly, when that information pertains to cyber threats.

Franken appears to be mirroring a worry expressed by the Department of Homeland Security that the bill’s definition is too expansive. It would give private companies the ability to deploy “defensive measures” for “any other attribute” of a cyber threat, according to DHS. The existing langue is, in essence, a catch-all phrase.

Wyden’s two amendments follow the privacy arguments he has championed since casting the sole vote against the bill when it passed through the Senate Intelligence Committee, 14-1, earlier this year.

His  amendments are intended to strengthen provisions on unnecessary personal information and  notification procedures. Wyden says that as the bill is written now, private companies only have to go through a “cursory review” to sift through personal information of consumers when sharing the information with government agencies.

Although the bill will have to wait until September for another shot at passing, the extra time for debate could help facilitate a compromise on that issue.

Wyden told reporters Wednesday, “It didn’t make sense to try to jam into a quickie debate a topic this important. And in the fall, there will be a chance for a real discussion of the issues.”

Morning Consult