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GOP chairman: White House not supporting Intel cyber bill

Lack of White House support for the draft of a Senate Intelligence Committee bill to enhance cybersecurity information-sharing may be delaying the measure, which was expected to be released this week.

Intel’s top two members, Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrA proposal to tackle congressional inside trading: Invest in the US Former Gov. Pat McCrory enters GOP Senate race in North Carolina Lara Trump leads GOP field in North Carolina Senate race, poll shows MORE (R-N.C.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinOvernight Defense: Army moves to combat sexual crimes | Eight West Point cadets expelled | Democratic senators want to restrict F-35 sale to UAE A proposal to tackle congressional inside trading: Invest in the US Democratic senators seek to constrain F-35 sale to UAE MORE (D-Calif.), have been collaborating on the measure, which would grant some legal liability protection to companies exchanging cyber threat data with intelligence agencies.

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“We’re hearing that the agreement between Senator Burr and Senator Feinstein is holding up,” Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP acknowledges struggle to bring down Biden Pelosi: Dropping 9/11-style Jan. 6 commission an 'option' amid opposition Wisconsin state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski launches Senate bid MORE (R-Wis.), who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told The Hill off the Senate floor.

The hold could be an attempt to get the White House on board, Johnson indicated.

“The White House is not a supporter, which is troubling,” added Johnson, whose committee is working on its own cyber info-sharing measure. “I’m hoping they reconsider. I think the Intel bill is well considered.”

“What’s holding it up is that people need to look at it, talk about it a little bit, consider the process,” Feinstein, ranking member on Intelligence, told The Hill.

A White House official said the administration doesn't comment on draft legislation. 

Government officials, lawmakers and industry groups have been pressing for a bill to grow the level of cybersecurity data-sharing between the government and private sector. It’s necessary, they say, to bolster a nation’s cyber defenses repeatedly breached by cyberattackers.

But privacy advocates have worried that an enhanced data flow could encourage more surveillance of Americans.

Homeland Security has been debating its own cyber info-sharing bill to address the issue.

Ranking member Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds Key Democrat says traveler fees should fund infrastructure projects Senate confirms Biden's pick to lead White House environmental council MORE (D-Del.) even introduced a version of the measure recently. It would place a civilian agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), at the center of the public-private exchange in an effort to quell privacy concerns about intelligence agencies gathering too much sensitive data.

But Johnson has said he wants to wait for the Intelligence bill before his panel moves on anything.

The White House might prefer that Homeland Security move a bill on its own.

The administration wants the DHS at the center of the government’s cyber data-sharing efforts. President Obama recently signed an executive order to make this arrangement more appealing to lawmakers.

The Intelligence Committee bill, modeled after last year’s Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, would allow more direct sharing between private companies and intelligence agencies.

A draft of the Intelligence bill has been circulating since last week

“I feel pretty good about the draft,” Feinstein said. “It’s a bipartisan draft because that’s the only way a bill is going to pass.”

The California senator said the 2015 bill has new language meant to assuage privacy advocates’ concerns.

“We’ve bent over backwards to try and protect the privacy rights,” she said.

The Intel committee is still hoping to keep its measure on track.

“The hope is to mark it up next week,” Feinstein added. “We’ll see.”

“I can’t predict what happens,” Johnson said. “This is something that we’ve got to work our way through.”