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 CollinsSenators crafting bill to limit deportations under Trump Cornyn: ‘Virtual certainty’ Sessions and Price will be confirmed Trump's wrong to pick Bannon or Sessions for anything 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.

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The Republican bill is backed by Sens. John McCainJohn McCainA Cabinet position for Petraeus; disciplinary actions for Broadwell after affair Meet Trump’s ‘mad dog’ for the Pentagon Wrestling mogul McMahon could slam her way into Trump administration MORE (Ariz.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyDrug pricing debate going into hibernation GOP leaders host Trump's top deputies Key Republican wants details on Ohio State attacker 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 MurkowskiPassing US-Canada preclearance would improve security and economy Overnight Energy: Dakota pipeline standoff heats up Trump's wrong to pick Bannon or Sessions for anything MORE (Alaska), Dan CoatsDan CoatsTrump narrows secretary of State field to four finalists 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map 10 Senate seats that could flip in 2018 MORE (Ind.), Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonThe Hill's 12:30 Report Passing US-Canada preclearance would improve security and economy Overnight Finance: Trump expected to pick Steven Mnuchin for Treasury | Budget chair up for grabs | Trump team gets deal on Carrier jobs MORE (Wis.) and Richard BurrRichard BurrDems pledge to fight Sessions nomination Battle for the Senate: Top of ticket dominates Shakeup on Senate Intel: Warner becomes top Dem 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 RockefellerLobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner Overnight Tech: Senate panel to vote on Dem 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 FeinsteinOvernight Defense: Armed Services chairman's hopes for Trump | Senators seek to change Saudi 9/11 bill | Palin reportedly considered for VA chief Lawmakers praise defense bill's National Guard bonus fix CIA head warns Trump: Undermining Iran deal would be 'disastrous' 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 ReidTrump gets chance to remake the courts Democrats local party problem Trump flirts with Dems for Cabinet 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.