Floor crunch could spike cyber bill

Floor crunch could spike cyber bill
© Francis Rivera

Senators are wary about Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellPence breaks tie, allowing Senate to revoke Obama order on abortion provider funding Pence casts tiebreaking Senate procedural vote on funding for abortion providers What if there’s no 'Nuclear Option' in the Senate? MORE’s plan to pivot quickly to a stalled cybersecurity bill next week in the waning days before the upper chamber’s August recess.

Immediately after the Kentucky Republican revealed his intent to bring up the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) — intended to boost the public-private sharing of cyber threat data — both supporters and opponents of the bill questioned the strategy.

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“I have mixed feelings about it,” Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinLive coverage: Senate intel holds first public Russia hearing Dem leaders give centrists space on Gorsuch Overnight Regulation: Trump repeals 'blacklisting' rule MORE (D-Calif.), the bill’s co-sponsor, told The Hill. “I’d obviously like to get it done. We’re working with people. Whether it can get done in a short floor time or not, I don’t know.”

For months, CISA has been mired in an ongoing skirmish over digital privacy, which could result in a bruising debate when the bill does hit the floor.

“It’d be good if it came up. I don’t know if we have time to finish it,” Sen. Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerPence breaks tie, allowing Senate to revoke Obama order on abortion provider funding With Freedom Caucus dig, Trump masters the media ... again Pence casts tiebreaking Senate procedural vote on funding for abortion providers MORE (D-N.Y.), a cyber bill backer and the third-ranking Democrat, told The Hill. “It would be good to start it. The question is, do a lot of the Republicans add totally extraneous amendments? Are they going to try to turn cyber into something else?”

Privacy and civil liberties advocates are worried the bill would create another venue for the government’s intelligence arm to collect sensitive data on Americans only months after Congress voted to rein in the National Security Agency’s surveillance powers.

But industry groups, many lawmakers and national security experts insist a bolstered public-private data exchange is necessary to better understand and thwart vicious cyber threats. Inaction will leave government and commercial networks exposed to increasingly dangerous hackers, they say.

These backers believe existing CISA provisions already guarantee that personal information will be removed before data is shared with the intelligence community. 

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahySenate braces for fallout over Supreme Court fight Register of copyrights should be presidential appointee GOP senator on going nuclear: 'I really hope that it doesn't come to that' MORE (D-Vt.), a vocal opponent of the bill as written, accused McConnell of trying to evade privacy advocates’ concerns.

“If the majority leader is serious about improving our nation’s cybersecurity, he will listen to Sen. Feinstein and others who have called for a meaningful amendment process,” Leahy said in a statement. “If he wants yet another political stunt, he will try to jam this bill through the Senate just days before the August recess. That is not the responsible way to legislate about our nation’s cybersecurity.”

Leahy and Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenPot state Dems want federal regulation of marijuana Live coverage: Senate intel holds first public Russia hearing Overnight Finance: Dems seek probe of acting SEC chief | Defense hawks say they won't back short-term funding | Senate seen as start point for Trump infrastructure plan | Dems want more money for IRS MORE (D-Ore.) are leading an expanding caucus within the Senate that is trying to significantly edit the bill.

They say the bill does more to protect the privacy of companies than it does the privacy of individuals.

CISA shields companies from legal liability when sharing their cyber threat data with the government. If companies are going to be offered this protection, Wyden argued, there should be stricter requirements for firms to strip personal information before handing data over to the government.

“In effect, companies could dump large quantities of their data to the government after only a cursory review,” Wyden told reporters during a Thursday conference call.

Because of this opposition — expected from both the far left and far right — a protracted floor debate is expected as senators look to stuff the legislation with add-ons.

“I just want to make sure that individual privacy is maintained, that we follow the Constitution as we go along,” Sen. Dean HellerDean HellerWith GOP’s healthcare bill on ice, Dems go on offense Red-state Dems in Supreme Court pressure cooker This week: House GOP faces make-or-break moment on ObamaCare MORE (R-Nev.) told The Hill. “There's a few of us that feel that way and it’s probably pretty easy to figure out which few it is.”

In June, Heller and Sens. Ted CruzTed CruzWith Freedom Caucus dig, Trump masters the media ... again Texas Dem targets Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 What are 'religious liberty' bills really about? MORE (R-Texas), Rand PaulRand PaulWith Freedom Caucus dig, Trump masters the media ... again The Hill's 12:30 Report Pot state Dems want federal regulation of marijuana MORE (R-Ky.) and Mike LeeMike LeeKushner meets with lawmakers about criminal justice reform: report What are 'religious liberty' bills really about? Lee: Nuclear option justified after Dems used it in 2013 MORE (R-Utah) joined Democrats to vote against attaching the cyber bill’s language to a recent defense authorization bill. The maneuver would have prohibited lawmakers from offering amendments to the CISA text.

“I think a bill needs to happen, I do, but I just want to make sure we don’t go too far,” Heller said.

Both Heller’s GOP group and numerous Democrats are vying to propose their own amendments, a process sure to clog floor time.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark WarnerSenate Dems to Trump: Veto broadband privacy repeal Live coverage: Senate intel holds first public Russia hearing Dem leaders give centrists space on Gorsuch MORE (D-Va.), a supporter of moving swiftly on a cyber bill, nonetheless told The Hill “we need amendments” and that he would suggest “a series” of his own.

Leahy said he is angling to put forward several privacy-focused alterations.

“There’s a lot of improvements that have to be made,” he told reporters.

Schumer indicated that Democrats would be open to an across-the-aisle deal that could speed the process.

“We will offer the Republicans an agreement to a certain number of amendments, all relative to the bill,” he said.

But since CISA opposition doesn’t split evenly along party lines, such a deal may be difficult to strike.

“I think what’s going to be holding up the bill is their side,” Schumer added. “The Ted Cruzs and others of the world who want amendments unrelated the bill and won't let it go forward.”