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Senate Democrats block cyber amendment

Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked Republicans from linking a cybersecurity amendment to a defense bill.

The upper chamber fell four votes shy of the 60 votes needed to move forward with attaching the anti-hacking measure to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). While six Democrats broke with the party line to support limiting debate, three Republicans joined the Democrats in opposition.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSenate is leaning to the Democrats, big time, with a wave Budowsky: Trump's COVID-19 death toll dominates election Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (R-Ariz.) withdrew the amendment after the vote, making the path forward for the amendment unclear.

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Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Trump casts doubt on hopes for quick stimulus deal after aides expressed optimism Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE (R-Ky.) implored his colleagues to accept the provision, which contained legislation that would expand the exchange of cyber threat data between the government and the private sector.

“There are now 4 million extra reasons for Congress to act quickly,” McConnell said, referring to the recent digital theft at the Office of Personnel Management.

While the cyber measure itself, known as the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), isn’t controversial, the maneuver to attach it to the NDAA irked Democrats.

Democrats want the chance to offer privacy-enhancing amendments to the CISA, which they would not be able to do if the language became an NDAA add-on.

“There is no good reason for doing it this way,” Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein The Memo: Biden stays slow and steady in face of criticism MORE (D-Nev.) said on the Senate floor right before the vote, calling for the Senate to take up cyber after the defense bill.

“It’s a false promise, its a facade,” he added.

Civil liberties advocates have maintained that the bill, as written, would simply shuttle more sensitive data to the intelligence agencies.

Republican leaders earlier on Thursday said they had no backup plan for how else to move CISA.

Reid promised on the floor that if CISA was taken up separately, lawmakers could get through all the desired amendments in two days of debate. 

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate MORE (R-Ky.), who boosted the profile of his presidential campaign by breaking with McConnell during the recent fight over surveillance reform, sided with the Democrats in voting to block the amendment.

Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeEnd the American military presence in Somalia Ted Cruz won't wear mask to speak to reporters at Capitol Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test MORE (Utah) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (Nev.) were the other two Republicans who voted against it.