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Internet Security Bill Could Be Stalled

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Chances for passage this week of legislation to strengthen the nation’s response to cyber-attacks were further complicated today as Senate Republican leaders said they will seek to offer an amendment to repeal the health care law.

“I am going to be as patient as I can the next few days and see if there is some agreement that can be reached, but right now there isn’t a lot of hope coming from the Republican side,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said at a press conference today.

“‘It’s a rendezvous with destiny,’” Reid quoted Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) as saying to fellow Democrats at their weekly lunch about the bill. He said she stressed that it is not if a cyber-attack will take place, but when.

“We cannot let this bill die because of partisanship, but that is what is happening,” Reid said.

The amendment discussion is taking place as the bill’s sponsors continue to seek an agreement on the substance of the bill, which has been criticized by business groups.

Reid was critical of Republicans who want to offer an amendment to the cybersecurity bill that would roll back the health care reform law of 2010, the Democrats’ signature legislative achievement last Congress. The Republican-led House has voted more than 30 times on repealing parts or all of the law.

“To show how serious they are on cybersecurity — the most pressing issue facing the security of this nation — the Republican leader ... wants a vote on repealing health care,” Reid said.

“I’ve danced this tune before, and it’s always the same tune,” Reid said of the amendment process. “You lead, and let me stand on your foot.”

Reid, who moved to cut off debate this evening, has said that he is open to votes on relevant amendments but indicated that having votes related to health care as part of the cybersecurity debate was not tenable.

Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) traded barbs this morning on the floor over the issue.

Reid added that he finds the Republicans’ effort particularly galling because starting today, in accordance with the law, new health care plans will have to start offering preventive services — including contraception and HIV screening and counseling for sexually active women — without cost-sharing.

“Tomorrow, women in America no longer become second-class citizens,” Reid said. “Tomorrow, women no longer will have a pre-existing disability. Why? Because she’s a woman; and [McConnell] wants a vote to repeal health care.”

McConnell told reporters today that Democrats were already planning to give speeches this week praising the law.

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