Feinstein: Cybersecurity bill now ‘in real trouble’

Greg Nash

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s leaders — Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) — have split over the planned path forward for their stalled cybersecurity bill.

Burr and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are trying to attach the cyber bill — intended to boost the public-private exchange of hacking information — to the annual defense spending bill under consideration this week.

{mosads}It’s an effort to push the cyber bill up in the congressional queue in the wake of the massive data breach at the Office of Personnel Management that exposed 4 million federal workers’ records.

But Feinstein denounced the plan on the Senate floor Wednesday, calling it “a mistake” and saying the tactic would put the bill “in real trouble.”

“Filing the cybersecurity bill as an amendment to the defense authorization bill prompted a lot of legitimate and understandable concern from both sides of the aisle,” said Feinstein. “People want a debate on the legislation, and they want an opportunity to offer relevant amendments.”

Critics of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), such as Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), have pledged to offer privacy-enhancing amendments to the bill once it hits the floor.

They’re concerned the measure would simply shuttle more sensitive data to the National Security Agency just weeks after Congress voted to rein in the spy agency’s authority.

“A number of my colleagues would like to propose amendments, as is their right,” Feinstein said. “And I expect I would support some of them and would oppose some of them. But the Senate should have an opportunity to fully consider the bill, to receive the input of other committees with jurisdiction in this area.”

CISA does have broad bipartisan backing. Two complementary companion pieces of legislation passed the House in April by wide margins. The White House has cautiously backed those bills and indicated it could support the final product if the Senate passed its version.

Both parties agree that expanding the exchange of cyber threat data between the private sector and government will help the country bolster its cyber defenses.

But the move by leadership to tie the cyber bill to defense spending has threatened that bipartisan comity, Feinstein said.

Unless the Senate considers CISA separately, Feinstein predicted, “we won’t have a bipartisan vote, I believe because, like it or not, no matter how simple — and I’ve been through two bills now — this is not an easy bill to draft because there are conflicts on both sides.”

Feinstein called on McConnell to bring up CISA immediately following the defense bill.

“I very much hope that the majority leader will reconsider this path and that once we have finished with the defense authorization bill, the Senate can take up, consider and hopefully approve the cybersecurity legislation,” she said.

Tags Dianne Feinstein Mitch McConnell Patrick Leahy Richard Burr Ron Wyden
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