White House: Senate not 'taking care of business' on cyber

White House: Senate not 'taking care of business' on cyber
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The White House chided Congress Thursday for “not taking care of business before leaving on vacation,” a day after senators punted on a major cybersecurity bill before leaving town for their summer recess.

“I think what is true is — and I think we can count on — that even if Congress has delayed consideration of the cyber bill, that our adversaries in cyberspace aren't gonna take August off,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest during a press conference.

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The upper chamber on Wednesday delayed yet again consideration of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), which facilitates the exchange of cyber threat information between companies and the government. The White House this week came out in favor of the bill, urging swift action.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push On The Money — GOP blocks spending bill to kick off chaotic week in congress Overnight Health Care — Presented by Alrtia — Booster shots get bipartisan rollout MORE (R-Ky.) had tried to punch the bill through in the waning days before the August recess, but couldn’t reach a final deal with Democrats to limit floor debate and amendments.

However, before leaving Washington, senators did agree to a slate of at least 21 amendments that will be offered whenever the bill is eventually taken up.

Privacy advocates are looking to significantly alter the bill with their amendments.

While CISA supporters argue enhancing cyber threat information-sharing is a necessity to better understand and repel potential cyberattacks, digital privacy groups believe the bill will simply funnel more sensitive data on American citizens to government intelligence agencies.

Democrats had refused to move on the bill until privacy-minded lawmakers such as Sen. 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.) were guaranteed the chance to offer amendments.

Earnest recognized lawmakers’ progress on Thursday.

“The administration is encouraged that the Senate has agreed to a path forward to consider important cybersecurity legislation,” he said. “And while there are still some areas of concern that we hope to address, the bill's sponsors have made a good-faith effort to address some of our biggest concerns and have demonstrated their intent to make further important changes.”

Earlier Thursday, McConnell vowed to finish up the bill when lawmakers return in September, despite a packed schedule.

Earnest said he’s hopeful McConnell is right.

“There have been some constructive conversations, and, hopefully when Congress does return in September, they'll be able to take some steps down that path forward that now has been created,” he said.