GOP senators push cybersecurity bill that avoids ‘heavy hand of government’

Eight Republican senators introduced their own cybersecurity bill Thursday as an alternative to the measure backed by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand FCC to officially rescind net neutrality rules on Thursday MORE (R-Maine.).

Unlike the Lieberman-Collins measure, the Republicans Secure IT Act would not give the Homeland Security Department the power to require critical computer systems to meet certain security standards.

The Republican bill is backed by Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainLawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology Democrats put Dreamers and their party in danger by playing hardball Trump set a good defense budget, but here is how to make it better MORE (Ariz.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyPavlich: The claim Trump let the mentally ill get guns is a lie Congress fails miserably: For Asian-Americans, immigration proposals are personal attacks Grassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees MORE (Iowa), Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissLobbying World Former GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill OPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party MORE (Ga.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe siren of Baton Rouge Interior plan to use drilling funds for new projects met with skepticism The 14 GOP senators who voted against Trump’s immigration framework MORE (Alaska), Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsTop state election official questions why Trump is downplaying threat of Russian election interference: report Russian bots turn to gun control after Florida high school shooting: report The case alleging Russian collusion is not closed MORE (Ind.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump spars with GOP lawmakers on steel tariffs Overnight Regulation: Trump unveils budget | Sharp cuts proposed for EPA, HHS | Trump aims to speed environmental reviews | Officials propose repealing most of methane leak rule Trump budget seeks savings through ObamaCare repeal MORE (Wis.) and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrOvernight Finance: Senate rejects Trump immigration plan | U.S. Bancorp to pay 0M in fines for lacking money laundering protections | Cryptocurrency market overcharges users | Prudential fights to loosen oversight Senators introduce bill to help businesses with trade complaints Our intelligence chiefs just want to tell the truth about national security MORE (N.C.).

Now is not the time for Congress to be adding more government, more regulation, and more debt — especially when it is far from clear that any of it will enhance our security, Chambliss said in a news release. Our bill offers the right solution to improving our nation’s cybersecurity by encouraging collaboration, investment, and innovation.”

The GOP legislation would encourage private companies to share information about cyberthreats with the government and would empower the secretary of Commerce to set cybersecurity standards for government agencies. It would also update the criminal code for cybercrimes and toughen penalties.

“Our bill represents a new way forward in protecting the American people and the country’s cyber infrastructure from attack,” Grassley said. “Instead of the heavy hand of the government, our approach promotes information sharing and keeps the taxpayers’ wallets closed.”

Supporters of the Lieberman-Collins bill argued that the regulatory power is necessary to ensure that critical systems, such as electrical grids, are secure from cyberattacks. 

Vincent Morris, a spokesman for Sen. Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerOvernight Tech: Trump nominates Dem to FCC | Facebook pulls suspected baseball gunman's pages | Uber board member resigns after sexist comment Trump nominates former FCC Dem for another term Obama to preserve torture report in presidential papers MORE (D-W.Va.), who also backs the bill, said he is “glad to see other senators recognize the severity of this threat,” but “we’re still convinced that you can’t get there without some new rules.”

Lieberman, Collins, Rockefeller and Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinLawmakers feel pressure on guns Feinstein: Trump must urge GOP to pass bump stock ban Florida lawmakers reject motion to consider bill that would ban assault rifles MORE (D-Calif.) issued a joint statement in response to the introduction of the GOP bill.

“We are encouraged by our colleagues’ recognition that we must act to address the increasingly sophisticated and dangerous attacks on our national infrastructure,” they said. “We can no longer delay action on deciding how to deal with this critical issue, and we are eager to work with them to bring comprehensive cyber security legislation to the Senate floor as soon as possible.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidWATCH: There is no Trump-Russia collusion and the media should stop pushing this The demise of debate in Congress ‘North by Northwest,’ the Carter Page remake MORE (D-Nev.) plans to bring the Lieberman-Collins bill straight to the Senate floor, skipping any committee votes.  

The Republican critics argued that the various committees with jurisdiction, including the Commerce, Judiciary, Energy, Intelligence and Homeland Security committees, should all have an opportunity to amend the legislation.

At a Homeland Security Committee hearing last month, McCain accused Lieberman of trying to ram his bill through Congress.

Lieberman argued that Congress has been working on cybersecurity legislation for years and that his bill incorporates elements of several pieces of legislation that have already been through the committee process.

“To treat the last Congress as a legislative mulligan by bypassing the committee process and bringing the legislation directly to the floor is not the appropriate way to begin consideration of an issue as complicated as cybersecurity,” McCain responded.