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Senate shoots down Paul's contested cyber amendment

Senate shoots down Paul's contested cyber amendment
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The Senate on Thursday struck down Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenators discussing Trump censure resolution Senate GOP signals it's likely to acquit Trump for second time Trump ex-chief says Senate vote signals impeachment effort 'dead on arrival' MORE's controversial amendment to a major cybersecurity item that the bill's backers said could have killed the whole measure.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) would shield companies from legal liability when sharing cyber-threat data with the government, in an effort to boost the public-private exchange of information on hackers.

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The amendment from the Kentucky Republican, who is running for president, would have stripped this liability immunity from any company found breaking a user or privacy agreement with its customers. The offering received 32 votes, short of the simple majority needed to pass.

CISA has split traditional industries like finance and retail, which argue they need the legal assurance, and privacy groups, which say CISA will give private companies too much leeway to share Americans’ personal data with the government.

Paul, who has made a name for himself and his 2016 campaign by siding with privacy and civil liberties groups on issues such as government surveillance, has taken a strong stance against CISA. On his campaign website, he said the bill “would transform websites into government spies.”

On Thursday, he took the floor to argue that his amendment would implement much-needed privacy protections into CISA.

“This bill says that if a company violates [the privacy agreement] in sharing your information, that there will be legal immunity for that company,” Paul said. “I think that weakens privacy.”

“It makes your privacy agreement not really worth the paper it’s written on,” he added.

In the hours leading up to the vote on Paul’s proposal, industry groups banded together to strongly oppose the Kentucky Republican’s efforts.

The amendment, the coalition said in a letter to all senators, would “undermine” CISA’s goals “by jeopardizing a firm's liability protections for even an inadvertent violation of a terms of service or privacy agreement.”

As a result, the change “will only discourage firms from participating in the voluntary sharing process, weakening our collective ability to defend against cyber attacks,” the letter added.

Dozens of groups representing banks, insurers, hospitals, telecom firms and wireless and broadband companies all signed on.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinBush-, Obama-era officials urge Senate to swiftly confirm Biden's DHS pick Senate committee advances Biden's DHS pick despite Republican pushback Hillicon Valley: Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says | Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian hack on DOJ, courts | Airbnb offers Biden administration help with vaccine distribution MORE (D-Calif.), one of CISA’s co-sponsors, reiterated these fears on the floor, warning her colleagues the bill could go down if Paul’s amendment was adopted.

“This amendment would actually fatally disturb what’s in the bill, which is clear and concise,” she said. “We have been told, for the industries that support this bill, that this amendment is a bill-killer.”

Paul was joined by other privacy-minded senators on both sides of the aisle who have expressed reservations about CISA.

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Several of Paul's colleagues also voted with him, including Sens. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R-Nev.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate committee advances Biden's DHS pick despite Republican pushback Overnight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Austin sworn in as nation's first Black Pentagon chief MORE (R-Utah) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate committee advances Biden's DHS pick despite Republican pushback Google suspends donations to lawmakers who voted against certifying election The Hill's Morning Report - Biden argues for legislative patience, urgent action amid crisis MORE (R-Texas), who is running for president as well.