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 WhitehouseDems ask if Trump aide Bill Shine is breaking ethics laws Senators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe Dems vs. Trump: Breaking down the lawsuits against Whitaker 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 McCainTrump will likely win reelection in 2020 Kevin McLaughlin tapped to serve as NRSC executive director for 2020 Kasich on death of 7-year-old in Border Patrol custody: 'Shame on Congress' 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 MikulskiAthletic directors honor best former student-athletes on Capitol Hill Dems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee Robert Mueller's forgotten surveillance crime spree MORE (D-Md.), Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenators prepare for possibility of Christmas in Washington during a shutdown Dem senator: Trump 'seems more rattled than usual' Dem: 'Disheartening' that Republicans who 'stepped up' to defend Mueller are leaving MORE (D-Del.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOcasio-Cortez: By Lindsey Graham's 1999 standard for Clinton, Trump should be impeached Senate votes to end US support for Saudi war, bucking Trump Former FBI official says Mueller won’t be ‘colored by politics’ in Russia probe MORE (R-S.C.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntDems to reframe gun violence as public health issue Senate heads toward floor fight on criminal justice bill The Year Ahead: Tech braces for new scrutiny from Washington MORE (R-Miss.) and Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsDems slam Trump for siding with Saudi Arabia in Khashoggi killing Dem senator demands public intelligence assessment on Khashoggi killing Hillicon Valley: Official warns midterm influence could trigger sanctions | UK, Canada call on Zuckerberg to testify | Google exec resigns after harassment allegations | Gab CEO defends platform | T-Mobile, Sprint tailor merger pitch for Trump 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 Defense: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force House Dems follow Senate action with resolution to overturn IRS donor disclosure guidance Senate votes to overturn IRS guidance limiting donor disclosure MORE (R-Maine) and the other backers of his bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidManchin’s likely senior role on key energy panel rankles progressives Water wars won’t be won on a battlefield Poll finds most Americans and most women don’t want Pelosi as Speaker 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.”