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Senate Revisits Cybersecurity Measure

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Democrats hope to persuade opponents to revisit cybersecurity legislation by citing a recent speech by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on devastating cyberattacks on businesses in the Middle East.

Seizing on recent international cyberattacks and a dire warning from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Senate Democratic leaders hope to pressure opponents back into talks on cybersecurity legislation. 

“I appeal to our colleagues in the Senate and outside groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who have opposed cybersecurity legislation, to come to the negotiating table in the spirit of compromise so that together we can act to protect our country from cyber-attack before it is too late,” Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Monday in an emailed statement.

Citing “the imminent threat of cyber-attack and the daily intrusions into public and private networks that increasingly threaten our way of life,” Lieberman said, “the need to establish minimum security standards to protect our most important cyber-systems cannot be overstated.”

Lieberman’s comments come after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called for passage after the elections of a cybersecurity measure that was derailed in the Senate in August, referencing a speech Panetta delivered last week. Reid, who issued his statement over the weekend, blamed Republicans for blocking the bill. Of the 46 Senators opposing the measure, six were Democrats, including Reid, who voted against the bill to be able to bring it up again under Senate rules. 

A Senate Democratic aide said that it was far from certain that the renewed effort will yield the desired result, but supporters welcomed the opportunity. 

“We already had a bill; we already made lots of changes to it to accommodate Republicans,” the aide said. “Now we have new evidence ... showing how serious this is. Our hope is that it puts them in a more accommodating mind, but we’ll see.”

A senior Senate GOP aide blamed Reid and Democrats for not allowing Republicans to offer amendments to the bill, which they argue has been a strategy by Reid to protect vulnerable Democrats from having to take tough votes.

“Republicans are hopeful that, on the second time around, Sen. Reid would fulfill his commitment to have an open and transparent process so this important issue could be fully and fairly vetted,” the GOP aide said. “Republicans have waited this whole session to consider and debate the National Defense Authorization Act — any appropriations bill, but especially the Defense appropriations act and legislation to improve our cybersecurity and information sharing. From his actions, though, it appears that Sen. Reid has never wanted open debate on any of these bills.”

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