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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.

Richardson said she doubted the White House was all that interested in placating its civil liberties critics, because it hadn’t budged on many of those criticisms to date. But maybe they got through this time.

“Yes, we pushed them very hard. The Internet organized around these issues, and there were hundreds of thousands of calls to the Hill,” Richardson said. “I hope they were influenced. It’s not only the corporations that are supposed to have a voice in process.”

But overall, the administration had little to gain by standing in favor of privacy and civil liberties, she said: “I honestly think it is sincere up there.”

After working hard to address some of the administration’s concerns, the Hill staffer said the veto threat undercut bill supporters’ desire to work with the White House going forward.

Ruppersberger, for his part, said “I don’t think there were hard feelings at all. There were hard feelings after the first bill.” He said the White House has been in touch about wanting to keep lines of communication open.

And a second senior administration official said the White House had no ulterior motive with its veto threat.

“From our perspective, really the issue is that at the end of the day we had to express our opinion on the bill that came out of committee,” the official said. “There were some issues with that version of the bill that made it so the president’s senior advisers could not recommend he sign such a bill.”

Senate Outlook

Ruppersberger said he hoped that the big margin on the House bill would show the Senate that the proposal has momentum.

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said what happened in the House won’t impact the legislation she’s working on with her vice chairman, Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

The House bill “is not going to go anywhere,” she said last week.

Chambliss said he saw value in the House proposal, and one of the things he would change could cause greater dismay in the White House.

“There’s some good things in there some things I like, some things I’d like to make stronger, particularly the immunity provisions,” he said last week. But, he added, “I think we come at it from a little different approach.”

Both supporters and opponents of CISPA said that while Rogers and Ruppersberger have largely been on the same page on cybersecurity legislation, Feinstein and Chambliss have come at the issue with different perspectives — Feinstein with an emphasis on privacy, Chambliss with an emphasis on ease of sharing. Nonetheless, one industry lobbyist said that, at minimum, the House has produced a “conference-able” bill should something emerge from the Senate.

There was also one key element to what happened in the House that could be telling for the endgame.

“The overwhelming bipartisan and veto-proof majority demonstrates that we were able to find the right balance as to what can get done in a divided Congress,” Rogers said in a written statement. “And anyone who has looked at this threat at all knows we have to get legislation signed into law as soon as possible to protect our networks and our economy at large.”

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