Cybersecurity compromise still uncertain

With the August recess nearly three weeks away, it will be difficult for the Senate to move forward on cybersecurity legislation—but don’t count it out just yet.

Some are holding out for progress to be made on a compromise framework drafted by Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies Democrats give cold shoulder to Warren wealth tax MORE (D-RI) on provisions dealing with critical infrastructure, such as water systems and telecommunications networks. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce met with Kyl and his staff this past week to discuss the latest version of the framework.

A spokesman for the Chamber said the business lobby had a “constructive dialogue” with Kyl at the meeting and declined to comment further. 

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The Chamber may not be saying much, but some see that as a good thing. The business lobby opposed an earlier draft of the compromise proposal circulated last month, but so far has not spoken out against the latest version of the framework.

“We can keep talking,” a Senate aide said. “In that regard, it’s a victory for now.”

But there’s still a tough road ahead. Industry groups have said privately that they’re hesitant to back the compromise proposal without seeing it written in legislative language first.

The framework aims to encourage companies operating the nation’s critical infrastructure to better secure its computer systems and networks by offering incentives--such as liability protections or access to government intelligence--in exchange for meeting a set of “performance goals” or security standards.

Industry groups, including the Chamber, have criticized Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-Conn.) cybersecurity bill because it contains a measure that mandates critical infrastructure operators to meet security standards. Business groups have favored a rival bill by Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death Anti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid McCain's family, McCain Institute to promote #ActsOfCivility in marking first anniversary of senator's death MORE (R-Ariz.) that does not include mandates for critical infrastructure and focuses on improving information sharing about cyber threats between industry and government instead.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiLobbying World Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Raskin embraces role as constitutional scholar MORE (D-Md.), Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsThe United States broken patent system is getting worse Biden faces scrutiny for his age from other Democrats Democrats press FBI for details on Kavanaugh investigation MORE (D-Del.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Cindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death Trump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week MORE (R-S.C.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity GOP group targets McConnell over election security bills in new ad MORE (R-Miss.) and Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray Coats10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall 11 Essential reads you missed this week Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE (R-Ind.) are said to have been involved in the compromise effort.

Coats is a co-sponsor of McCain’s Secure IT Act. A spokeswoman for Coats said he has not signed onto any other language than McCain’s bill but “is willing to discuss with any of his colleagues efforts to improve cyber security in a way that does not jeopardize private sector flexibility or create costly layers of government bureaucracy.”

Time is another factor not on the Senate’s side. The floor schedule is already full for the next couple weeks with a campaign finance disclosure bill and tax cut extensions on the docket. Any compromise framework also needs to be signed off on by Lieberman, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: Insurance lobby chief calls Biden, Sanders health plans 'similarly bad' | Trump officials appeal drug price disclosure ruling | Study finds 1 in 7 people ration diabetes medicine due to cost Collins downplays 2020 threat: 'Confident' reelection would go well if she runs Cook Political Report moves Susan Collins Senate race to 'toss up' MORE (R-Maine) and the other backers of his bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE (D-Nev.) has said he plans to tackle cybersecurity this year. A spokesman for Reid said not to count it out and there is a possibility that the upper chamber will get to cybersecurity legislation this month.

Some say tight deadlines may spur the Senate to eke out a deal on Lieberman’s bill.

“The time for it to happen is now,” said one tech lobbyist, “and it probably will.”