Senate GOP whip hopes to act on cyber bill in early August

Senate GOP whip hopes to act on cyber bill in early August
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Republican leaders are eyeing the first week of August to try and move a stalled cybersecurity bill.

“I think we have to,” Cornyn told The Hill on Tuesday. “Hope springs eternal.”

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It would be the last chance for the upper chamber to try to pass the anti-hacking measure before a four-week recess. The bill, known as the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), is intended to boost the exchange of cyber threat data between the public and private sectors. The House has already passed its two companion pieces of legislation.

But the prospect might seem a longshot to many. The Senate’s calendar is packed in its final weeks before the August break. Myriad budget bills and a fight over the recently struck deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program are expected to dominate the diminishing floor time.

The Senate has been trying to move the bill for months to no avail.

Those backing the measure — a bipartisan group of lawmakers, most industry groups and potentially even the White House — were hopeful for swift passage in the upper chamber after the House approved its two measures by wide margins in April.

But the Senate bill was derailed amid a fight over reforming the National Security Agency.

A right-left coalition of privacy advocates in Congress are concerned that CISA would simply shuttle more sensitive consumer information to the NSA, further enabling its surveillance programs only months after the Senate voted to restrict the agency’s authority.

Senate Republicans tried to attach the CISA language onto a defense authorization bill in an attempt to rush the bill through following the massive data breach at the Office of Personnel Management.

But Democrats revolted and blocked the maneuver. Many on the left, including bill co-sponsor Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), were upset lawmakers wouldn’t get to offer any privacy-enhancing amendments on the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over the weekend insisted Republicans were going to try and move the bill in the coming weeks.

“These cybersecurity issues are enormously significant,” he said during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “What we're going to do is before August, take a step in the direction of dealing with the problem with information sharing bill that I think will be broadly supported.”

Cornyn backed McConnell’s plan.

“He would like to prioritize this and get it done before we leave,” Cornyn said.

But the majority whip acknowledged it could be difficult with the packed calendar. The CISA may have to wait until at least September.

“I’m optimistic we’ll be able to get it done,” he said.