Reid, Lieberman urge quick agreement on amendments to cybersecurity bill

The Senate has been working for months on the Cybersecurity Act, S. 3414, led by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). But a group of Republicans, led by Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), have an opposing bill — the SECURE IT Act — that they’re hoping to vote on as a substitute amendment.

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The two groups have fought over the extent to which companies would have to meet federal cybersecurity standards and which government agency would be in charge of implementing the security changes.

The Cybersecurity Act would increase cyber protections for the nation's electrical grid, financial networks, transportation system and other critical infrastructure.

Both sides have been working closely together to reach an agreement, Lieberman said.

“What was once a wide chasm is now narrow ridge that I think we can bridge,” Lieberman said Tuesday. “We’ve already made major compromises in our bill to get something started on cybersecurity.”

Both men stressed the need for germane amendments.

“We’ve come closer than ever to an agreement [on amendments] but we’re not there yet,” Lieberman said. “We’ve got to start processing amendments that are germane or relevant ... we’re dealing with a national security crisis like never before ... sending a political message will only get in the way of national security.”

Lieberman urged his colleagues to “hold back on irrelevant amendments” because there are already more than 70 germane amendments filed. 

Earlier in the day Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested an amendment to repeal the Affordable Care Act — something Reid quickly objected to.

“I don’t think women getting contraception has a thing to do with cybersecurity,” Reid said.

Lieberman said he’s hoping many of the amendments could be incorporated into a managers’ amendment package to which all of those involved in negotiations agree.

“My dream, my goal here is that we’re able to submit a managers' amendment from a much larger group ... in order to protect our country from a terrible danger that is real and growing,” Lieberman said.

He stresses the need for compromise from both sides so that the national security issue could be addressed.

“There are advocates on both sides that think we’ve gone too far, and some think we haven’t gone far enough,” Lieberman said. “Legislators on the inside need to take those views into account but ultimately our job to get something done to protect our security.”

Reid continued debate on the bill until 5 p.m. Tuesday, when he's expected to return to the floor for an update on an amendments agreement.