Republicans prep Secure IT Act in the House

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

Supporters of the Secure IT Act warn that new regulatory powers would burden businesses and grow the budget deficit. Instead, their measure focuses on encouraging private companies to share information about cyberthreats with the government and toughening penalties for cybercrimes.

"[Rep. Bono Mack is] concerned that a slew of new federal regulations could stifle innovation and actually undermine cybersecurity efforts. As a result, as the first step out of the box, she favors a measured, reasoned approach and then, moving forward, build upon these efforts if any flaws in the system become apparent," said Ken Johnson, a spokesman for Bono Mack.

But supporters of the Lieberman-Collins bill warn that the alternative GOP bill will not effectively prevent cyberattacks against critical systems such as electrical grids or dams unless the government has the power to enforce basic security standards.

A White House spokeswoman said last week that the GOP's Secure IT Act does not go far enough.

"Resorting to half measures, such as legislation that relies on corporations to share more information for their own benefit without strong privacy protections, is not sufficient to address our nation’s critical infrastructure vulnerabilities and therefore is not commensurate with the very real and urgent cyberthreats we face," Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, told The Hill.

The administration has endorsed the Lieberman-Collins bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to bring the Lieberman-Collins bill straight to the Senate floor in the coming weeks, skipping any committee votes. 

Johnson, Bono Mack's spokesman, said the congresswoman hopes to include her data breach bill in the final cybersecurity legislation. Her bill would create a single national standard requiring companies to notify customers if hackers access their personal information.

He said he expects the Secure IT Act to be referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, among others.