House to Take Up Cybersecurity Bills in Condensed Week
With a scheduled work week that even a college senior could endorse, House lawmakers return to the Capitol Tuesday for just three days to deal with cybersecurity bills and to put the finishing touches on a budget and trade legislation.
The House will deal with two cybersecurity bills this week: the Protecting Cyber Networks Act and the National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act of 2015. The first bill, which the Intelligence Committee agreed to on a noncontroversial voice vote, is intended to promote information sharing about cybersecurity threats and would provide liability protections for companies that share that information with other companies and the government. There is, however, some controversy surrounding the bill. The American Civil Liberties Union is concerned some of the information given to the government could be used to go after whistleblowers, though there is a section in the bill — specifically titled, “Whistle Blower Protections” — that is meant to allay those concerns. The bill is expected to pass, but it will serve as another potential vehicle for the larger debate about privacy, cybersecurity and online activities.
The second bill, which recently advanced out of the Homeland Security Committee on a voice vote, is similar to the cyber-networks bill, but it would use the Department of Homeland Security as an intermediary for sharing the electronic information. In return, companies would get protection from civil suits brought by consumers who think the information sharing violates privacy laws.
As those bills make their way through the House chamber, lawmakers will engage in the made-for-Capitol-Hill-newspapers drama of a budget conference . The House and Senate have each appointed conferees, and those lawmakers are expected to hold what could be their one and only public meeting on the budget soon.
No one really expects Democrats to play much of a part in the negotiations — it’s more of a House Republicans and Senate Republicans thing. But there could be rhetorical fireworks during the meeting.
Lawmakers will also be looking to put a fast-track trade bill on the fast track for passage. Members unveiled the Trade Promotion Authority bill last week, and this week will be key for finalizing support for — or mounting opposition to — the legislation. The bill would establish rules for trade negotiations between the United States and Pacific countries, and it is essential to an actual deal getting done.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to address a joint meeting of Congress on April 29, and his speech is largely seen as an effort to move Congress and the administration closer to an eventual 12-nation, Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
Shawn Zeller contributed to this report.
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