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House Approach to Cyber-Threat Bill Offers Clues to Fate in Senate

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Ruppersberger and Rogers will meet next week with members of the Senate to discuss information sharing legislation.

Backers of a controversial cyber-threat information-sharing bill overcame a White House veto threat and vocal criticism from privacy and civil liberties groups to push it through the House last month by a resounding margin.

Now, as the Senate begins to assemble its own bill, there are some signs in the House process of how it might go in the higher chamber — but there are also indicators of additional obstacles it will face.

The House legislation (HR 624) won more votes April 18 than the previous version did last year: 288, compared with 248.

The bill, commonly known by its acronym CISPA, is now closer to Senate language from last year that critics of the House bill and President Barack Obama’s administration found more favorable. The question is what kind of influence the White House will have going forward because of its veto threat, and whether the increased number of Democratic votes for the House bill will have any sway over what the Senate does.

“I was quite disappointed that they made that threat considering they were at the table with the refinements made to the bill,” said Rep. Terri A. Sewell, D-Ala., a member of the House Intelligence panel.

One industry lobbyist, though, said that despite the White House’s veto threat confusing so many backers of the legislation, it did spell out where there was common ground and where there wasn’t.

“While there was a line in there on threatening a veto, it also described parts of the bill they liked and things that they thought needed tweaking going forward,” the lobbyist said.

The House bill’s sponsors, Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and top committee Democrat Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, plan to meet next week with their Senate counterparts to discuss the senators’ own planned information sharing legislation.

And the White House expects to be involved in bicameral discussions.

“We just want to make sure we’re open and ready to participate in the process as the Senate moves forward and working between the houses to produce a conference bill,” Michael Daniel, the White House cybersecurity coordinator, told CQ Roll Call.

The Veto Threat

After smarting from last year’s veto threat, Rogers and Ruppersberger engaged the White House early and often this year in a bid to avert a repeat.

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