Senate Democrats block cyber amendment

Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked Republicans from linking a cybersecurity amendment to a defense bill.

The upper chamber fell four votes shy of the 60 votes needed to move forward with attaching the anti-hacking measure to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). While six Democrats broke with the party line to support limiting debate, three Republicans joined the Democrats in opposition.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn McCainObama's right to tackle redistricting, but it won't be easy Flake gets early 2018 primary challenger Cruz: Precedent exists for keeping Supreme Court short-staffed MORE (R-Ariz.) withdrew the amendment after the vote, making the path forward for the amendment unclear.

Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellCures bill in jeopardy amid drug pricing push Senate Democratic super PAC sets fundraising record Five takeaways from Florida Senate debate MORE (R-Ky.) implored his colleagues to accept the provision, which contained legislation that would expand the exchange of cyber threat data between the government and the private sector.

“There are now 4 million extra reasons for Congress to act quickly,” McConnell said, referring to the recent digital theft at the Office of Personnel Management.

While the cyber measure itself, known as the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), isn’t controversial, the maneuver to attach it to the NDAA irked Democrats.

Democrats want the chance to offer privacy-enhancing amendments to the CISA, which they would not be able to do if the language became an NDAA add-on.

“There is no good reason for doing it this way,” Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidSenate Democratic super PAC sets fundraising record Cruz: Precedent exists for keeping Supreme Court short-staffed Warren’s power on the rise MORE (D-Nev.) said on the Senate floor right before the vote, calling for the Senate to take up cyber after the defense bill.

“It’s a false promise, its a facade,” he added.

Civil liberties advocates have maintained that the bill, as written, would simply shuttle more sensitive data to the intelligence agencies.

Republican leaders earlier on Thursday said they had no backup plan for how else to move CISA.

Reid promised on the floor that if CISA was taken up separately, lawmakers could get through all the desired amendments in two days of debate. 

Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulWhat the 'Bernie Sanders wing of the GOP' can teach Congress GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election How low is the bar for presidential candidates, anyway? MORE (R-Ky.), who boosted the profile of his presidential campaign by breaking with McConnell during the recent fight over surveillance reform, sided with the Democrats in voting to block the amendment.

Sens. Mike LeeMike LeeDonald Trump's Mormon PR problem Trump's big worry isn't rigged elections, it's GOP establishment GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election MORE (Utah) and Dean HellerDean HellerGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election More Senate Republicans pressure Treasury over debt-equity rules Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears MORE (Nev.) were the other two Republicans who voted against it.