McConnell, Reid trade cyber blows on Senate floor

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused Democrats Thursday of trying to “score some political points” by threatening to block a cybersecurity bill that McConnell wants to attach to the annual Defense authorization bill.

“I hope they don’t do that,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “Most Americans would find that awfully cynical.”

{mosads}Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) shot right back.

“For five years, five years we tried to get a cybersecurity bill up,” he said. “Every time we got it up, it was stopped by the Republicans. Every step of the way my Republican friends blocked us. So talk about cynicism and hypocrisy.”

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) has so far enjoyed broad bipartisan support. It passed through the Senate Intelligence Committee by a 14-1 vote.

But following the massive data breach that exposed 4 million federal workers’ personal information, McConnell moved to push CISA up in the congressional queue by offering it as an amendment to the annual Defense authorization bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

McConnell’s tactic infuriated Democrats, who want the chance to offer privacy-enhancing amendments to the bill on the floor. As an NDAA add-on, CISA would have to go through as-is.

Democrats believe they have the votes to block the maneuver.

Civil liberties groups have argued CISA would shuttle more sensitive data to intelligence agencies, empowering their surveillance programs.

McConnell disagreed on the Senate floor.

CISA would “help strike a critical balance between security and privacy,” he said. “It contains modern tools that cyber experts tell us could help deter future attacks against both the public and private sector.”

McConnell’s office also disputed Reid’s assertion that the GOP has stymied “every” past efforts at cyber legislation, pointing to the slate of cyber bills passed last year that codified federal agencies’ roles in cybersecurity and boosted the number of government employees dedicated to the issue.

The Senate has to move now on a new cyber bill, McConnell said, before the administration can “fumble away” more federal data.

“He comes to the floor today and blames Barack Obama for the hacking that the Chinese did?” Reid said.

The Senate could vote as early as Friday on adding CISA as an amendment to the defense bill.

Tags Barack Obama Harry Reid Mitch McConnell
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