Senators hold out hope that cybersecurity bill can be revived

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the lone Republican sponsor of the bill, voiced similar disappointment about the bill getting caught up in gridlock. Collins said the Senate was ignoring the warnings from defense officials about America's electric grid, financial systems and other infrastructure being susceptible to a crippling cyberattack.

"It is just incomprehensible to me that we would not proceed to this bill. There certainly is plenty of blame to go around but I believe with good faith on both sides we could have completed action on this issue," Collins said. "It is a shameful day that the Senate did not proceed on this bill."

Lieberman noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) voted against the measure as a procedural move so that he can potentially bring the bill back to the floor later in the fall. He said Reid would be open to returning to cybersecurity if an agreement can be reached on amendments.

"The critical ingredient now is to get the irrelevant, non-germane amendments off and to agree on a limited number of amendments and then let the Senate work its will," Lieberman said. "We know it will really be a shame and a terrible embarrassment and a gross failure if we don't at least debate this on the floor and let the body work its will."

Still, he noted that he wasn't optimistic about the bill's prospects so late in the year.

Senate Democrats criticized GOP members this week for offering amendments dealing with healthcare repeal and abortion bans, arguing these proposed changes were irrelevant to the issue of national security and prevented the bill from moving forward. They also accused the Chamber of Commerce of squashing Republican support for the bill by waging a fierce opposition campaign against it.

But even Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), one of the lead sponsors of a rival cybersecurity bill, said she hoped members would continue working on a compromise and return to the issue in September. Hutchison said supporters of the competing bill, the Secure IT Act, hoped a new draft bill could be completed that would be an amalgamation of their measure, Lieberman's bill and a compromise framework from Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

"We believe that, with time, we will all come together, and in September we hope this will be a priority for the majority leader. We also believe it was clear to the majority leader that this bill would not get cloture in the condition it is in," she told reporters immediately after the Cybersecurity Act co-sponsors held their press conference. "Hopefully, we can put this all behind us and go forward in a positive way, which everyone on our side wants to do and everyone on their side wants to do."

Senate Republicans had argued the bill would tack additional regulations onto industry, and took issue with the elevated role it gave the Department of Homeland Security over the nation's cybersecurity. For this reason, the GOP-backed Secure IT Act focused on improving information-sharing about cyberthreats between government and industry and did not include measures that would encourage industry to meet cybersecurity standards developed by federal agencies.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) echoed Hutchison's hope that work on cybersecurity legislation will continue.

"This bill will be back because it must be back," he said. "So this vote today is not the end of the discussion, but rather the beginning of the discussion."

McConnell also criticized Reid for not holding an open amendment process on the bill. Reid filed for cloture earlier this week after he said Republicans refused to drop irrelevant amendments from consideration.

But despite these hopes to continue work on the cybersecurity bill, it faces extraordinary odds at coming up again with the presidential election on the horizon.

Additionally, the Senate only has a limited number of working days in the beginning of September and a slate of other time-sensitive legislation it has to work through. Any legislation coming out of the Senate would also have to be conferenced with a package of cybersecurity bills passed this spring in the House. Among them would be the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act from the House Intelligence Committee, which has faced fierce opposition from privacy groups. 

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