Conservatives fail to strip cyber text from spending bill

Conservatives fail to strip cyber text from spending bill
© Greg Nash

A group of conservatives led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) was shot down in a last-gasp attempt to strip major cybersecurity legislation out of the sweeping omnibus spending package.

The cyber bill, which would make it easier for businesses to share information on hacking threats with the government without the fear of lawsuits, was inserted into the $1.15 trillion spending bill at the last minute.

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The decision has spurred anger from the privacy- and civil-liberties-minded wing of the House, as well as the conservative Freedom Caucus.

Jordan, who chairs the Freedom Caucus, filed an amendment to the omnibus Wednesday that would have axed the legislation, known as the Cybersecurity Act of 2015.

Notably, the alteration would have also injected a House-passed bill that would toughen screening for refugees coming to the U.S. from Syria and Iraq, as well as three abortion-related riders authored by the Pro-Life Caucus.

The White House has said it would veto any spending bill that included the refugee language.

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The powerful Rules Committee, which decides what amendments will receive votes on the full House floor, voted down the edit, 9 to 2, late Wednesday.

The effort is part of the small but vocal movement to kill the measure.

Civil liberties-focused Republicans have united with tech-centric Democrats to oppose both the bill and its inclusion in the omnibus.

Amash and Poe, two of the lawmakers behind Jordan’s amendment, were responsible for a letter decrying the move with Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) and Jared Polis (Colo.).

Several of these lawmakers told The Hill they are voting against the omnibus because of the cyber bill’s presence.

They argue the measure will simply shuttle more personal data on Americans to the National Security Agency without improving the nation’s cyber defenses.

“I just think it’s very troubling,” Lofgren told The Hill. “The bill should not be in the omnibus. It’s a surveillance bill more than a cyber bill.”

Proponents — including a broad swath of lawmakers, many industry groups and the White House — counter that clauses within the bill ensure that any sensitive details will be scrubbed before the information is shared widely throughout the government. They say the measure is a necessary first step to help combat hackers.