Senate legislation that would help safeguard the nations against cyber-attacks fell prey to a partisan disagreement over what amendments would be offered to the bill.
The bill failed 52-46 on a vote to cut off debate on the measure. Sixty votes were needed to beat back a GOP-led filibuster.
“This is another filibuster that could have been prevented by their working to get a list of amendments,” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said before the vote.
But Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) charged that Reid, who refused to allow Republicans to offer the amendments of their choice to the measure, doomed the bill.
“Members on both sides of the aisle have recommendations for improving our cyber-defenses, and some of them thought this bill would provide an opportunity to propose those ideas through amendments — especially since Democrats didn’t allow for an opportunity to do so in committee,” McConnell said.
“Frankly, I was a little surprised the Majority Leader decided to file cloture and end debate before it even started,” McConnell continued.
Democratic leaders said that Republicans sought only to score political points with the amendments they were seeking to offer, which included two to repeal the 2010 health care law and one on rolling back the financial services reform law — both representing signature Democratic legislative achievements of the last Congress.
The bill would put in place safeguards to ensure the cybersecurity of the electrical grid, drinking water, communications systems and other critical systems.
While there is widespread agreement on the need and importance of the bill, there is disagreement over what the bill should do.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been critical of the measure, which supporters of the measure say have made it difficult to win Republican votes.
Reid blamed the chamber for being a significant hurdle. He noted that authors of the bill changed their original proposal in an effort to win over Republicans and the business community.
Rather than institute new regulatory mandates, one change would allow private industry groups to develop and recommend to a new National Cybersecurity Council voluntary cybersecurity practices to mitigate identified cyber risks. The standards would be reviewed and approved, modified or supplemented as necessary by the council to address the risks.
“That is still not good enough” for the chamber, Reid lamented.
“We believe this legislation is more important than getting a pat on the back from the Chamber of Commerce,” Reid continued. “That is why the Republicans are running like scared cats.”
Five Republicans voted to end debate: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Dick Lugar (Ind.), Dan Coats (Ind.), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.).
Six Democrats opposed moving forward with the bill: Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Reid. The Majority Leader voted no in order to preserve his option to bring the vote back up at a later date.