Major cyber bill expected in omnibus

Major cyber bill expected in omnibus
© Greg Nash

A major cybersecurity bill will likely be included in a sweeping omnibus spending deal expected late Tuesday night, according to multiple people with knowledge of the talks.

“All indicators look positive, but we’ll find out when it gets filed later tonight,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul told The Hill just before a 6:30 p.m. vote.

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As of Tuesday afternoon, lawmakers had essentially completed the final compromise text of three cyber bills that encourage businesses to share more data on hackers with the government.

For the last few weeks, negotiators have targeted the giant $1.1 trillion spending measure as a way to get their cyber bill on President Obama’s desk before the end of the year.

But a last-minute debate over the bill’s privacy language has drawn out the final stages of the discussions, endangering plans to have the measure ready before the omnibus deal was revealed.

Negotiators have been working on the cyber measure’s compromise language since the Senate passed a version from the Intelligence Committee in October. The House passed its two complementary bills in April: one from that chamber's Intelligence panel and another from Homeland Security.

On Tuesday, several people tracking the talks said negotiators had smoothed out their remaining disagreements, just hours ahead of the expected omnibus release.

The tactic of moving the cyber bill with the omnibus has already drawn criticism from some privacy-minded lawmakers, civil liberties groups and digital rights advocates.

They say including the measure in a larger package is a way to avoid a transparent debate about a bill they believe will simply shuttle more of Americans' personal data to the National Security Agency (NSA).

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, many industry groups and even the White House have countered that the bill is a necessary first step to fighting hackers, and must move swiftly to help stem the fallout from data breaches.

Supporters also point to clauses they say would ensure any personal data is removed before the information is shared with the NSA.