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 CornynDemocratic Houston councilwoman announces Senate bid Trump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal 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 CollinsHillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp Trump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout MORE (R-Maine), the lead Republican on the bill, told reporters at a press conference.

In a complementary move, Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonMystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia Trump may intervene in Pentagon cloud-computing contract: report Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp MORE (R-Wis.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperFighting the opioid epidemic: Congress can't just pass laws, but must also push to enforce them Overnight Energy: Scientists flee USDA as research agencies move to Kansas City area | Watchdog finds EPA skirted rules to put industry reps on boards | New rule to limit ability to appeal pollution permits Watchdog finds EPA skirted rules when appointing industry leaders to science boards 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 LeahyLawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse MORE (D-Vt.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid Top Democrat demands answers on election equipment vulnerabilities Advocates frustrated over pace of drug price reform 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