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House Dem hopes Senate feels ‘urgency of now’ for cyber

It would be a shame if ongoing fighting between privacy advocates and security hawks delayed the Senate’s fight over cybersecurity legislation for two or three more months, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said on Thursday.

“What we’re looking for is the Senate to take some action,” Sinema said during a discussion organized by The Hill and sponsored by Visa on Thursday.

“I can't predict what Sen. [Mitch] McConnell’s [R-Ky.] schedule is going to be," she said, "but my hope is that as people pay more and more attention to these continuing breaches ... that members are hearing from their constituents and from groups that represent those constituents about the urgency of now.”

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Legislation to increase the amount of information that private companies can share among themselves and with the government has repeatedly stalled on Capitol Hill, despite the repeated pressure from the White House and multiple lawmakers in both parties.

The House passed two complementary bills earlier this year, but the Senate has so far been unable to follow through. In part, the holdup is due to concerns among privacy advocates that the legislation would shuttle more and more of people’s personal information to government intelligence offices like the National Security Agency (NSA).  

“Unfortunately I think there have been some privacy advocates who have chosen to stick to privacy talking points instead of acknowledging that we can protect individuals’ private data while also increasing information sharing,” Sinema said on Thursday. “We’ve got to find the right balance."

“The Senate has struggled with that and the House has not.”

Cybersecurity legislation was a top agenda item heading into the year, but it’s unclear whether legislation that sailed through the Intelligence Committee 14-1 will get a vote on the floor.   

Given the packed upcoming schedule, action might be impossible until later in the year.

“Let’s be honest — we had over 79,000 breaches last year,” Sinema said, citing data from Verizon.

“That’s thousands and thousands of breaches between now and September and October, and those breaches are in some cases becoming greater in scale and more dangerous to American security.”