Week ahead: Senate tees up cyber bills

The Senate could be nearing action on a long-stalled cybersecurity bill.

Although the upper chamber will likely be tied up in debate over its highway-funding bill through Wednesday, Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynAbbott bows to Trump pressure on Texas election audit Senate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook Democrats up ante in risky debt ceiling fight MORE (R-Texas) has teed up cybersecurity on his “look ahead” as a potential next topic.

Republican leaders have been saying for several weeks they want to get to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) — which would boost the public-private exchange of data on hackers — before the August recess.


In anticipation of imminent movement, lawmakers spent the past week preparing cyber bills they are hoping to attach to CISA.

This week, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) more power to repel cyberattacks.

The FISMA Reform Act would update the 13-year-old Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and formalize the DHS role in protecting government networks and websites.

The Senate's six backers consider proactive legal authority for the DHS necessary in the wake of the crushing hacks that rattled the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and exposed the government’s most sensitive data on more than 22 million people.

“While the Department of Homeland Security has the mandate to protect the .gov domain, it has only limited authority to do so,” Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsLooking to the past to secure America's clean energy future Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike MORE (R-Maine), the lead Republican on the bill, told reporters at a press conference.

In a complementary move, Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble Liberal group launches campaign urging Republicans to support Biden's agenda Domestic extremists return to the Capitol MORE (R-Wis.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperPlastics industry lashes out at 'regressive' Democratic tax plan Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs EPA finalizes rule cutting use of potent greenhouse gas used in refrigeration MORE (D-Del.), the top two lawmakers on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, are planning to introduce a bill that aims to ensure the government’s main system that thwarts hackers is up to date.

In the coming days, the duo will unveil the Einstein Act of 2015, named after the DHS program designed to detect and fend off known digital intruders.

The measure would boost Einstein oversight, while requiring that the program cover the entire government and incorporate leading private-sector security technology.

Einstein has never had a specific congressional mandate in its 10-plus years of existence. Many have knocked the program as outdated and over budget before it has even been fully implemented across the entire government.

The Homeland Security Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill on Wednesday.

Both bills are likely to be offered as amendments when CISA hits the floor.

While CISA has bipartisan, industry and perhaps even White House support, a privacy fight has held up the bill.

Digital-rights advocates argue that CISA would simply shuttle more sensitive data on Americans to the National Security Agency (NSA), empowering its surveillance programs just months after Congress voted to rein them in.

A growing coalition of privacy-minded lawmakers, including Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPhotos of the Week: Renewable energy, gymnast testimonies and a Met Gala dress Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' MORE (D-Vt.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money — House pushes toward infrastructure vote Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — EU calls out Russian hacking efforts aimed at member states Why Democrats opposing Biden's tax plan have it wrong MORE (D-Ore.), are trying to gather votes to block the bill.

While their contingent could be sizable, it’s not expected to be enough to filibuster the measure completely.

The House passed its companion legislation to CISA back in April.


More stories:

Chrysler is recalling roughly 1.4 million vehicles after security researchers exposed a flaw that allowed hackers to kill transmissions remotely: http://bit.ly/1MpzYyQ

The hacking group Anonymous claims it has infiltrated the U.S. Census Bureau, pilfering and dumping troves of data, but apparently nothing from the actual census itself: http://bit.ly/1CZpjZJ

A Senate funding committee agreed to extend protection for the victims of identity fraud following the recent hacks that have rattled the government: http://bit.ly/1gSJBtT

The government is electronically accepting security clearance forms for background checks again: http://bit.ly/1MrWHeP

Terrorist groups have begun plotting ways to hit the U.S. with cyberattacks, FBI Director James Comey said this week: http://bit.ly/1MqiMKD