GOP senators to White House: Cyber executive order would be 'a mistake'


A trio of centrist Senate Republicans on Wednesday urged President Obama to hold back on issuing an executive order that would protect critical infrastructure systems from cyberattacks and encouraged him to work with Congress to pass legislation instead.

In a joint letter sent to the White House, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) warn that an executive order could "undermine" Congress's need to act on cybersecurity legislation and provide a "false sense of security" that the national security threat has been resolved through executive action.

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Issuing an executive order "would be a mistake," they argued, and the president should "redouble" his efforts to work with Congress to get a bill passed that would address the rising threat. 

The three Republicans contend that only Congress has the power to enact cybersecurity policy that would incentivize companies to follow best practices for securing their networks, including offering them liability protection from legal action if they are hit by a cyberattack. They also argue that only legislation would offer privacy protections for Americans' sensitive information and provide a long-term solution that would endure "from one administration to the next" for protecting the nation from cyberattacks.

"As members who have worked hard to advance cybersecurity legislation in the Senate, we believe the legislative process remains the best way to build lasting consensus on an issue that is vital to our national security and our economic prosperity," the three GOP senators wrote. "We share your frustration that Congress has not yet completed its work on this legislation, but we remain committed to the legislative process and urge you to continue to work with Congress, rather than acting unilaterally through an executive order."

Collins, the ranking member of the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee, was a lead co-sponsor of a cybersecurity bill that was blocked by Senate Republicans this summer. GOP members and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce battled against the measure because they believed it would saddle businesses with new burdensome regulations.

Snowe and Lugar, both seen as centrist Republicans, will retire at the end of the congressional session. 

White House national security staff and a team of administration officials met with Senate aides last week to discuss a possible executive order on cybersecurity. 

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