Cybersecurity

Rick Scott blocks Senate vote on top cyber nominee until Harris visits border

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) on Wednesday blocked a proposed unanimous consent vote on President Biden’s nominee to lead the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) until Vice President Harris visits the U.S.-Mexico border later this week.

Scott made clear on the Senate floor that he is not opposed to Jen Easterly serving as CISA director but said the block is meant to hold the Biden administration accountable for addressing migration concerns at the southern border. 

“This isn’t about Ms. Easterly. This isn’t about cybersecurity,” Scott said. “I am here today because families in my state of Florida and across our nation deserve accountability, and President Biden has shown a total lack of accountability when it comes to addressing the border crisis.”

Scott voted in favor of approving Easterly following her nomination hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee but announced at the time that he would place a hold on Senate votes on all nominees for Department of Homeland Security (DHS) positions until Biden visited the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Harris’s office announced prior to the attempted Senate vote on Wednesday that she will visit the southern border on Friday after weeks of GOP criticism on the issue. Scott expressed skepticism about Harris completing the trip but vowed to lift his holds on DHS nominees once she does. 

“More than anything, I hope this isn’t a political stunt,” Scott said. “If she truly goes to see this crisis, I am going to lift all my holds of DHS political nominees. It’s that simple.”

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) brought up both Easterly’s nomination and the nomination of Robin Carnahan to serve as administrator of the General Services Administration for a vote Wednesday. Carnahan’s nomination was unanimously approved by the Senate. 

Peters highlighted the need to have a Senate-confirmed director of the CISA in light of the SolarWinds hack and ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline and JBS USA. 

“Cyberattacks put each and every one of us at risk, and I would hope my colleagues would allow these nominees to be confirmed today so they can keep us safe,” he said. 

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) also expressed support for the nominees ahead of the attempted votes. 

“The threat of ransomware attacks and other cyber crime is on the rise from state actors as well as cyber bandits who are given sanctuary by our adversaries,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “We need people at the helm of these important agencies to focus on hardening our nation’s cybersecurity. This should be a completely nonpartisan issue, and my Republican friends should not object.”

The CISA has been without Senate-confirmed leadership since former President Trump fired then-Director Christopher Krebs in November following efforts by the CISA to push back against election misinformation and disinformation. 

The agency bills itself as the nation’s risk adviser and is tasked with protecting critical infrastructure from physical attacks and cyberattacks, including elections.

If eventually confirmed to her position, Easterly will likely work closely with Chris Inglis, who was unanimously confirmed by the Senate as the nation’s first White House national cyber director last week.

Tags Border Charles Schumer CISA Colonial Pipeline cybersecurity Donald Trump Gary Peters JBS USA Joe Biden Mexico Rick Scott SolarWinds
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