Bipartisan cybersecurity bill fails on the Senate floor

The Senate on Aug. 2 failed to pass a bipartisan cybersecurity bill long in the making after a Republican filibuster blocked a final vote.

The legislation failed despite efforts to bridge the divide between Democrats and Republicans. In recent weeks lawmakers, led by bill co-sponsor Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn), had been compromising on measures in the legislation causing the most disagreement, but it wasn’t enough.

A group of Republican senators, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), remained opposed to the bill, contending it still placed too much burden on corporations, even though measures imposing security requirements had been watered down to instead offer incentives for participation.

The bill is a top national security priority for the Obama administration, which issued a statement shortly after the breakdown was announced that condemned the failure to come together on a critical, national threat.

“The politics of obstructionism, driven by special interest groups seeking to avoid accountability, prevented Congress from passing legislation to better protect our nation from potentially catastrophic cyber attacks,” the statement said.

Earlier in the week, the bill began to lose steam amid arguments over what amendments would be included. One of those amendments could have added urgency to the government's effort to consolidate data centers.

The failed passage comes as Congress prepares to head into recess. While prospects are dim for a successful revival in September, they are not completely extinguished.

“The critical ingredient now is to get the irrelevant, non-germane amendments off and to agree on a limited number of amendments and then let the Senate work its will,” Lieberman said in a press conference, per The Hill. “We know it will really be a shame and a terrible embarrassment and a gross failure if we don't at least debate this on the floor and let the body work its will.”

The bill’s other and sole Republican co-sponsor, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), called it a “shameful day.”

“It is just incomprehensible to me that we would not proceed to this bill," she said. "There certainly is plenty of blame to go around, but I believe with good faith on both sides we could have completed action on this issue."

Still, some Republicans who helped prevent the bill’s passage seemed confident in the possibility that the act will be taken up again when Congress returns.

“This bill will be back because it must be back,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “So this vote today is not the end of the discussion, but rather the beginning of the discussion.”

Lieberman also was hopeful, but acknowledged the difficulties ahead.

“I hope and pray that we can find a way to get back to common ground to protect America’s common ground,” he said at a press conference following the vote, per The Hill. “But it’s hard to see today as anything but a failure of the Senate and a setback for our national security.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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