GOP senators indicate they will move forward with cybersecurity bill

Republican senators are indicating that they will move forward with Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-Conn.) cybersecurity bill but aren’t committing to supporting its passage without changes.

Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said they plan to vote to move Lieberman's bill forward as long as amendments will be brought up when the bill is considered. A key procedural vote that will determine whether the bill moves to the floor is scheduled for Friday but may get pushed up to Thursday.

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Speaking on the Senate floor, Hutchison said the Republican backers of a competing cybersecurity measure, the Secure It Act, will vote to move the Lieberman's bill forward as long as there will be an open amendment process. She said the backers of Secure It Act plan to offer their bill as a an amendment in the nature of a substitute.

"I don't think anyone in our group wants to hold up dealing with cybersecurity. We know that America's systems could be under threat and some have been hacked into already," she said. "As long as we have an amendment process and are not shut out of this, we will vote to move forward to the bill."

Lieberman and the co-sponsors of his bill have been huddling this week with backers of Secure It Act and other members involved in compromise efforts on cybersecurity. The senators met on Wednesday and held another meeting Thursday morning.

When leaving the Thursday meeting, Kyl (R-Ariz.) said that he would vote in favor of the bill moving forward, assuming "that Reid keeps open the process that he has designated so far and I have no reason to believe that he won't." Kyl spearheaded a compromise effort with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) to find a middle ground between Lieberman's bill and the Secure It Act.

"The conversations are very productive, but obviously there's a lot of work to do and not very much time to do it," Kyl said. "I'm personally looking forward to getting on the bill and seeing how far we can go."

Reid has said he is open to having amendments on the bill and hopes to vote on them next week.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the lone Republican co-sponsor of Lieberman's bill, said she remained "optimistic" that the bill will get enough votes to move to debate and said the talks among members will continue.

"We had a very good turnout of senators who are committed to helping to work through a bill. We don't have any decisions to announce, but we're having good discussions and those will continue," she said when leaving the Thursday meeting. "I remain optimistic that we will have more than 60 votes for the cloture, whether that goes today or tomorrow I don't know."

When asked whether the talks would result in a substitute amendment to Lieberman's bill, Collins said "it's way too early" at this point to determine that.

There will be additional meetings on Friday and Monday to see if members can come to an agreement. However, there is a rough outline completed that lists the areas where members agree and disagree on the Lieberman bill, according to a Senate aide.

Hutchison said there are still sticking points on whether provisions in the bill are mandatory or voluntary and noted the challenges ahead in reaching a resolution on them.

"I think it's very hard to say yet if we're able to overcome some big gaps," she said when leaving the Thursday meeting.

But time for members to find an agreement is running out with the August recess fast approaching.

Despite the time crunch, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) struck a positive note, saying that "seven days is a lifetime." 

— This story was updated at 1:05 p.m.