Top Senate Intel Dem: White House 'encouraged' by cyber bill

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s bill to encourage greater cyber threat data sharing between the government and private sector is getting some initial positive feedback from the White House.

Committee ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTrump court pick sparks frustration for refusing to answer questions This week: Congress returns for first time since mass shootings GOP senators object to White House delaying home-state projects for border wall MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters Tuesday that she had heard from administration officials, who were “encouraged by our changes.”

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The Intelligence Committee adopted all or part of 12 privacy-focused amendments during a markup two weeks ago. The panel approved the bill, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), in a 14-1 vote.

CISA would give companies legal liability protections when sharing cyber threat data with the government.

A cyber info sharing bill has been a top legislative priority this year for lawmakers, government officials and most industry groups. They insist a greater degree of cyber data sharing is necessary to bolster the nation’s cyber defenses against the rising tide of cyberattacks.

The White House is expected to be key in determining the fate of the bill. The administration expressed some concerns about a CISA draft, which delayed the bill’s markup for several weeks.

President Obama has been promoting his own legislative proposal on the issue. It would place the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at the center of all public-private cyber info sharing.

CISA would denote the DHS as the primary interface for data exchanges, but also allow some direct, non-electronic info sharing with intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency.  

Several Senate Democrats — notably Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperLawmakers grill manufacturers over 'forever chemicals' contamination EPA ordered to set stronger smog standards America is in desperate need of infrastructure investment: Senate highway bill a step in the right direction MORE (D-Del.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine On The Money: Trump delays increase in China tariffs until Oct. 15 | Treasury says US deficit topped trillion in 11 months | Defense spending bill advances over Democratic wall objections MORE (D-Vt.) — have voiced reservations about the CISA draft. Both submitted long lists of suggestions to the committee.

Their opinions on how CISA’s final text incorporated these suggestions could also boost or hurt the bill’s odds.

Carper, the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said his staff has reviewed the bill and is receiving feedback from outside stakeholders.

The Delaware Democrat will be briefed Wednesday on the updated language.

“I haven’t had a chance to drill down on it to better understand what’s good about it,” he told reporters Tuesday. “There’s, I think, a fair amount to like about it.”

Carper is backing his own cyber info sharing bill, which closely mirrors the White House proposal. It would not allow any direct sharing with intelligence agencies.

“I think at the end of the day the final product won’t look entirely like what they’ve introduced, nor will it look entirely like what I’ve introduced,” Carper said.

Leahy told reporters he had also not yet had a chance to analyze CISA’s new language.

CISA is expected to get a full vote sometime in April.

The House is also working on two complementary bills, expected to hit the floor in April, that would enact much of what the Senate's bill contains.