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 McCainNBC's Lester Holt emerges from debate bruised and partisan Pundits react: Clinton won first debate Overnight Defense: Debate night is here | Senate sets vote on 9/11 veto override | Kerry, McCain spar over Syria MORE (R-Ariz.) withdrew the amendment after the vote, making the path forward for the amendment unclear.

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Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellZika funding fight throws wrench in health lobbyists’ plans Shutdown risk grows over Flint Senate poised to override Obama veto 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 ReidShutdown risk grows over Flint Overnight Finance: Four days left to avert shutdown | Conservative group bucks spending bill | Lawmakers play catch-up on smartphone banking Reid blasts GOP senator over Flint 'hostage' comments 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 PaulConservative group presses GOP to vote against spending bill Saudi skeptics gain strength in Congress Senators challenge status quo on Saudi arms sales 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 LeeShutdown risk grows over Flint Conservative group presses GOP to vote against spending bill Trump accepts Cruz endorsement after saying he wouldn't MORE (Utah) and Dean HellerDean HellerSenate lays groundwork for spending deal GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase Overnight Finance: Senators struggle with spending bill | Obama lifting Myanmar sanctions | Dems turn up heat on Wells Fargo | Panel votes to exempt Olympic medals from taxes MORE (Nev.) were the other two Republicans who voted against it.