GOP senator: Cyber bill has real shot in chamber

Sen. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerErnst elected to Senate GOP leadership This week: Congress starts lame-duck with leadership fight Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle MORE (R-Neb.) expressed optimism Thursday about the chances of moving a stalled cybersecurity bill through the Senate.

“The leader wants to be able to get a bill out,” Fischer said an event hosted by The Hill and sponsored by Visa, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRand Paul blocking Trump counterterrorism nominee On The Money: Trump, Senate leaders to huddle on border wall funding | Fed bank regulator walks tightrope on Dodd-Frank | Koch-backed groups blast incentives for corporations after Amazon deal Congress is going to make marijuana moves MORE (R-Ky.). “I think he has the support of the majority of members in our conference and I would hope the American people would continue to push all members to say we need to get this done.”

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Cybersecurity is “at the forefront of discussions that we’ve had in leadership since the beginning of the session,” she added.

In the wake of the recent blistering cyberattack on federal networks, the upper chamber tried to attach a major cyber bill — intended to bolster the public-private exchange of data on hackers — to a defense authorization measure.

Democrats rebelled, angry they would not be able to offer privacy-enhancing amendments to the bill, known as the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA). With the help of a few Republicans, they blocked the maneuver.

Civil liberties advocates have argued CISA could shuttle sensitive data to the National Security Agency (NSA), empowering the spy agency weeks after Congress voted to rein in its authority.

CISA’s prospects have been uncertain since. Senate leaders have indicated there is no set timeline to bring the measure up as a standalone bill. And House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said on Wednesday that the Senate bill in its current form would be a nonstarter in the House, which has already passed its two complementary companion bills.

CISA supporters — including a bipartisan group of lawmakers, most industry groups and potentially the White House — believe the measure is necessary to better thwart cyberattackers. By knowing more about our enemies, we can better repel them, they reason.

“If we don’t allow companies to be able to share information when they see something, the American people are not going to be protected,” Fischer said.

The bill would also help in the wake of massive data breaches, such as the one that has felled the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Fischer believes.

If the public and private sector are swapping more data, both sides can know sooner exactly what has happened, she said.

That “will get consumers more involved, I think, at an earlier time so that they know that their information has been compromised,” Fischer said.