GOP senators slam Democrats on cybersecurity stall

The nine senators are co-sponsors of a rival cybersecurity measure — the Secure IT Act — to the legislation by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) that the Senate took up earlier this month. Their comments signal that the partisan war over cybersecurity legislation is still fuming, and it's unclear whether the two sides will be able to reach a compromise on the issue before the end of recess.

Still, the GOP members said they had "a shared commitment" with Democrats before breaking for recess to work over the next month towards compromise legislation on cybersecurity.

"When it returns next month, the Senate should address cybersecurity, but not in the ‘take it or leave it’ manner the Majority Leader pursued," the members said. "Instead, it should be done in a manner that ensures our security, utilizes the most innovative aspects of the private sector and the government, and does not harm our economy."

Their comments come after co-sponsors of the Cybersecurity Act, including Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), said GOP members chose to ignore alarm bells from national security leaders about the threat of a catastrophic cyber attack by voting against moving the bill forward.

Ahead of this month's cloture vote, the backers of Lieberman's Cybersecurity Act and Secure IT Act co-sponsors met over several days to try to come up with an agreement on a list of amendments the two sides could support, but failed to reach a compromise. Republican members had echoed concerns from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that Lieberman's cybersecurity bill would be too regulatory on industry and saddle businesses with new security rules.

The co-sponsors of the Cybersecurity Act, on the other hand, argued that industry needed to take steps to harden the security gaps in its computer systems and stressed that the bill proposed a purely voluntary framework — not a mandatory one. Reid had also criticized Republican members for blocking consideration of the cybersecurity bill by proposing irrelevant amendments, such as a vote on healthcare repeal and abortion bans.

Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson fired back at the statement from Senate Republicans, saying the GOP members are "trying to distract attention from the fact that their party voted to block legislation vital to our national security." He added that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) "turned the cybersecurity bill into a Tea Party circus" after proposing amendments aimed at repealing "contraception coverage and other critical health services for women."

"Every day the Republicans choose partisanship over cooperation is another day America's economy and security are under attack without the resources our national security community needs to fight back," Jentleson said in a statement. "Democrats stand ready to address this critical national security issue whenever Republicans decide to get serious and stop catering to the Tea Party."

Leslie Phillips, a spokeswoman for Lieberman, also took issue with the GOP statement. The co-sponsors of the Cybersecurity Act "went hoarse" asking Republican members to submit a list of relevant amendments, which they have still not submitted, she said. Phillips also disagreed with the claim that there was an agreement on how to move forward with the cybersecurity legislation.

This post was updated at 1:59 p.m.