Sens. Whitehouse, Blumenthal call for action on cybersecurity legislation

A pair of Democratic senators took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to urge the upper chamber to break its impasse on cybersecurity legislation.

Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseLawmakers say fixing border crisis is Biden's job Democrats wrestle over tax hikes for infrastructure Democrats look to impose capital gains tax at death MORE (D-R.I.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) cited warnings from current and former defense officials about the United States facing an escalating threat of a crippling cyberattack. The senators said the chorus of warnings is too great for the upper chamber to ignore.

Whitehouse said cybersecurity legislation that does not address vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure will fail to protect the country from a devastating cyberattack. The Rhode Island Democrat stressed that operators of critical infrastructure must be required to reach a baseline level of cybersecurity.

"Unfortunately, the private sector can’t be counted on to respond to this growing challenge on its own," Whitehouse said.

The Senate has been divided over a measure in Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) cybersecurity bill that would require critical infrastructure operators to meet a set of security standards set in part by the government. Whitehouse said senators on both sides of the aisle are willing to work with companies to find an agreeable solution on the issue of security standards, but this should not delay the Senate from acting on cybersecurity.

“The question of whether we protect our privately held critical infrastructure in a responsible way is one that we should not allow to deter us from getting the job done,” Whitehouse said.

Along with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Whitehouse has been working on a compromise framework for critical infrastructure provisions.

Blumenthal echoed Whitehouse’s call for the Senate to bring cybersecurity legislation to the floor.

“Cybersecurity is not an issue that we can wait to address until we see the results of failure,” he said. “The consequences of a debilitating attack will be catastrophic for our nation.”