Make-or-break time for cybersecurity bill

It’s make-or-break time for cybersecurity legislation in the Senate. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidConstitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency Klobuchar: 'I don't remember' conversation with Reid over alleged staff mistreatment Dems wary of killing off filibuster MORE (D-Nev.) will likely move to Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) cybersecurity bill this week once the upper chamber finishes up votes on taxes, an aide said. That could come as early as Wednesday or Thursday, while a procedural vote to move the bill to the floor is expected the following Monday. 

The stakes are high for industry groups and for Lieberman, the bill's lead co-sponsor, who has eyed the measure as a part of his legacy before he retires at the end of this Congress.

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Lieberman has said a cybersecurity bill would either move to the floor before the August recess or not at all, and has been working on a compromise that he hopes will attract GOP support.   

This past week, Lieberman and the four other co-sponsors of the cybersecurity bill — Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBusiness, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week MORE (R-Maine), Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerSenate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Overnight Tech: Trump nominates Dem to FCC | Facebook pulls suspected baseball gunman's pages | Uber board member resigns after sexist comment Trump nominates former FCC Dem for another term MORE (D-W.Va.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFeinstein says she thinks Biden will run after meeting with him Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao seeks to clarify past remarks on date rape Bottom Line MORE (D-Calif.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants EPA to announce PFAS chemical regulation plans by end of year Overnight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House MORE (D-Del.) — introduced a revised version that attempts to soften provisions that would have required companies operating critical infrastructure to meet a set of security standards developed, in part, by the Homeland Security Department.

Republicans senators and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce strongly opposed the earlier infrastructure provisions, arguing they would saddle industry with burdensome regulations and create a bureaucratic nightmare.



A group of GOP senators led by Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMark Kelly's campaign raises over M in days after launching Senate bid The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers wait for Trump's next move on border deal Mark Kelly launches Senate bid in Arizona MORE (R-Ariz.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissSenate buzz grows for Abrams after speech electrifies Dems Ossoff tests waters for Georgia Senate run CIA's ‘surveillance state’ is operating against us all MORE (R-Ga.) has introduced a rival bill — the SECURE IT Act — that does not include security mandates and is focused on improving information sharing about cyber threats between industry and the government.


Lieberman’s revised bill would establish a program where critical infrastructure operators would certify that they meet a set of performance standards in exchange for various incentives, such as liability protections. The idea was hatched by a bipartisan working group that was led by Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseNew battle lines in war over Trump’s judicial picks Dems probing whether NRA made illegal contributions to Trump Senate panel advances Trump's pick for key IRS role MORE (D-RI) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).

"We are going to try carrots instead of sticks as we begin to improve our cyber defenses," Lieberman said in a statement. But he said if the voluntary measures don't work, "a future Congress will undoubtedly come back and adopt a more coercive system."

But whether those changes will be enough to get the 60 votes needed to advance most legislation through the Senate is uncertain. So far, Collins is the lone Republican backer of the bill, meaning the co-sponsors need to get at least another six GOP votes to hit 60.

Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Memo: Trump and McCabe go to war Graham seeks new Rosenstein testimony after explosive McCabe interview Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general MORE (R-S.C.) and Roy BluntRoy Dean Blunt‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration The border deal: What made it in, what got left out MORE (R-Mo.) are seen as possible swing votes because of their involvement in the compromise effort with Whitehouse and Kyl. Blunt emphasized that cybersecurity legislation must harden vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure during a colloquy with other members on the Senate floor this past week. 

Others are keeping an eye on Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteUS, allies must stand in united opposition to Iran’s bad behavior American military superiority will fade without bold national action Five possible successors to Mattis MORE (R-N.H.) as possible pick-ups for Democrats. Ayotte, however, had concerns with the original version of the Lieberman bill and has criticized the process used to draft it. 

Sen. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsEx-Trump official says intel community's testimony interfered in US-North Korea talks Is a presidential appointment worth the risk? Intel agencies' threat assessment matters more than tiff with Trump MORE (R-Ind.), a co-sponsor of the SECURE IT Act, was also seen as a possible convert because of his involvement in the Whitehouse-Kyl discussions, but has already expressed concerns with the new bill’s provisions.

“I strongly believe that Congress must pass a cyber security bill this year given the real and dangerous threat of a cyber attack on our country,” said Coats, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a statement. “While I am still reviewing the details of the revised Cybersecurity Act offered by Sens. Lieberman and Collins, I remain concerned that some of the provisions move beyond voluntary incentives and subject the private sector to mandatory requirements and burdensome regulations.”

Even if the bill clears the Senate, it has to make it through conference, and many of its provisions have long odds of passing the GOP-controlled House.

House Republican leaders have indicated they will not allow a vote on any cybersecurity bill that they view as creating burdensome regulations.

House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBill Clinton jokes no one would skip Dingell's funeral: 'Only time' we could get the last word Left flexes muscle in immigration talks Former Ryan aide moves to K street MORE (R-Ohio) said in April that the president's support for cybersecurity mandates shows that the "White House believes the government ought to control the Internet, government ought to set standards and government ought to take care of everything that’s needed for cybersecurity."

GOP Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) authored a House bill that would have set mandatory standards for critical infrastructure, but was forced to scale back the requirements in a bid to win over House leaders.

His revised bill would have allowed the Homeland Security Department to help critical infrastructure companies protect their networks, but the system would have been entirely voluntary. But House leaders blocked a floor vote on it.

Despite the challenges, the activity is the closest Congress has come to passing major cybersecurity legislation in recent years. 

"If a major event happens, no one wants to be the one pointed to as having held up legislation," said Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, a partner at Monument Policy Group. 

"There has been a lot of compromise to reach this point, so the Senate is in the closest place it has been this year for passing cybersecurity, though there are obviously still challenges to getting it done."