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 CollinsGOP rep faces testy crowd at constituent meeting over ObamaCare DeVos vows to be advocate for 'great' public schools GOP senators introducing ObamaCare replacement Monday 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 McCainSenate committee to vote Monday on Tillerson Trump fails to mention Clinton in inaugural address Hillary Clinton under microscope at inauguration MORE (Ariz.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP senator: Trump budget chief could face confirmation 'problems' Jeff Sessions will protect life Justice, FBI to be investigated over Clinton probes MORE (Iowa), Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissWyden hammers CIA chief over Senate spying Cruz is a liability Inside Paul Ryan’s brain trust MORE (Ga.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiWhat we learned from Rick Perry's confirmation hearing Perry regrets saying he would abolish Energy Department Trump education pick to face Warren, Sanders MORE (Alaska), Dan CoatsDan CoatsFive things to watch in round two of Trump confirmation fights Gingrich: Trump should tell new spy chief to 'thoroughly overhaul' intelligence community Government to begin calling Indiana residents Hoosiers MORE (Ind.), Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonOvernight Healthcare: GOP governors defend Medicaid expansion GOP senator: Let's work with Dems to 'fix' ObamaCare Right renews push for term limits as Trump takes power MORE (Wis.) and Richard BurrRichard BurrSenators introduce dueling miners bills Trump education pick to face Warren, Sanders Senate Intel panel to probe Trump team's ties to Russia 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 RockefellerJay RockefellerObama to preserve torture report in presidential papers Lobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner 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 FeinsteinJustice requires higher standard than Sessions Senate to vote Friday on Trump's defense picks Senate seeks deal on Trump nominees 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 ReidThe DC bubble is strangling the DNC Dems want Sessions to recuse himself from Trump-Russia probe Ryan says Trump, GOP 'in complete sync' on ObamaCare 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.