Dem says Obama's veto threat for CISPA was like kick in the gut

Democratic Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.) voiced frustration Thursday with the White House's threat to veto his cybersecurity bill.

"It was like a kick in the solar plexus," Ruppersberger said, referring to an area of the abdomen.

"We've been working with [the White House] for one year," he said. "I don't like to get a phone call half an hour before we go to Rules [Committee] yesterday that this is coming. I wasn't a happy camper, but it is what it is."

The White House issued a veto threat on Wednesday against Ruppersberger's Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), saying the measure would undermine privacy and would fail to protect critical infrastructure. Ruppersberger has co-sponsored the measure with Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and the bill has been embraced by House Republican leaders.

ADVERTISEMENT
Ruppersberger said he actually agrees with many of the White House's complaints. But he said that new regulations for critical infrastructure and tougher privacy protections will not make it through the GOP-controlled House.

"I'm in the minority, and I'm doing the best that I can," Ruppersberger said.

He emphasized that if Congress fails to pass cybersecurity legislation, the nation could suffer a devastating attack.

"We weren't ready for 9/11. But we have an opportunity to be ready for this," he said.

CISPA would tear down legal barriers that prevent companies from sharing information about cyber threats.

The White House and privacy advocates argue the bill should require companies to strip out personally identifiable information, such as names and birth dates, from the data they turn over to the government. But Ruppersberger said Republicans will never support such a minimization requirement because they think it would be too onerous for businesses.

The White House has endorsed an alternative cybersecurity bill from Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) that includes tougher privacy protections and would set mandatory security standards for critical infrastructure, such as electrical grids, banks and telecommunication networks. 

"I would have no problem voting for the Lieberman bill," Ruppersberger said. "But we're in the minority. The Lieberman bill is a nonstarter."

When asked whether he would support regulations for critical infrastructure systems, Ruppersberger said, "I think they should deal with that, clearly."

But he said Republicans will refuse to support the provision because "businesses don't want regulation."

"But when it comes to protecting our country, we need to make sure that all companies are regulated," the Democratic lawmaker said.

Ruppersberger said Democrats grilled him on Wednesday at a party caucus meeting about his bill. He said many of his Democratic allies abandoned the legislation after the White House came out against it.

Ruppersberger said he and Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) were probably the only two lawmakers defending the bill at the meeting, but predicted it would still clear the House on Friday.

"It's going to be close, but i think we're going to get the bill passed," he said.

Ruppersberger made the remarks at a Thursday morning breakfast hosted by the Telecommunications Industry Association.