Without an agreement, Reid eyes last 2012 effort on Cybersecurity Act

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may take another crack at passing cybersecurity legislation next week although Republicans and Democrats still haven't reached a compromise on the matter.

Reid is aiming to bring the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 to the floor at the end of next week after the Senate votes on Sen. Jon Tester's (D-Mont.) sportsmen's bill, according to Senate aides.

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The bill's prospects look dim, however, as it appears the bill still lacks enough Republican support to clear the upper chamber. Observers expect the bill to fail just as it did in August, when Senate Republicans blocked a motion to move the measure forward after arguing that it would saddle industry with new burdensome regulations.

“While we are eager to pass effective cybersecurity legislation, we are no closer to a compromise than we were this summer,” a Senate GOP aide said.

Last month Reid vowed to bring the cybersecurity bill to the floor in the lame-duck session, saying that Republicans “will have one more chance to back their words with action, and work with us to pass a bill.”

James Lewis, director of the technology and public policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Reid will have the opportunity to test the temperature of the Senate on certain hot-button measures in the bill--such as security standards for critical infrastructure —if he brings it to the floor, which would set the stage for the next generation of cybersecurity legislation in 2013.

“It's to test the waters, to shape the landscape for the next Congress,” Lewis said of Reid's plans to revisit the cybersecurity bill. “Each side is going to push each other a little bit to see where the weak spots are.”

“If they stumble on the magic formula they'll pass it, but the main thing is to test the waters,” he said.

If Reid brings the bill forward, another battle over the amendment process could be on the horizon. Republicans want Reid to hold an open amendment process if he brings the bill to the floor, said Michael Brumas, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“If Sen. Reid brings the bill up during the lame-duck session, we hope he would fulfill his clear commitment to have a thorough and open amendment process, especially given the complex nature of the subject,” Brumas said.

This past summer, the two parties couldn't come together on a list of amendments to vote on. Reid charged that Republicans insisted on amendment votes that were not germane to cybersecurity, such as repealing the Affordable Care Act or outlawing abortions.

A vote on cybersecurity also opens the door for the White House to make a move on the executive order it's drafted over the past few months. The order is aimed at encouraging critical infrastructure operators — such as water plants, electric companies and telecommunications networks —to beef up the security of their computer systems and networks.