Lawmakers will adjourn for a summer break without passing a cyber security bill which legislators warned is imperative to pass due to an “imminent threat” of more sophisticated cyber attacks facing the country.
In recent days the Obama administration ratcheted up the fear, warning that without this legislation the nation’s security is at risk, vulnerable to a far-reaching cyber attack, a sentiment echoed throughout this week’s debate in the Senate.
“We don’t want a cyber 9/11,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said, “right now, our adversaries are watching us. We’re debating, protecting America from cyber attacks, and it looks like we’re doing nothing, that when all is said and done, more gets said than gets done. Our adversaries don’t have to spy at us. They can just look at the senate floor and say ‘what the heck are they doing’?”
But today the legislation failed to move through a procedural vote in the senate by a vote of 52-46. The bill would have established security standards to prevent cyber attacks on control systems and cyber systems that control the nation’s electric supply, financial transactions, transportation system and telecommunications system.
For months the Senate has been working on legislation offered by Sens. Joe Lieberman., I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine. The legislation, which had the support of the White House, had always faced an uphill climb in Congress, even in its reworked and watered down language.
“It’s hard to see today as anything but a failure of the Senate and a setback for national security,” Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said today following the vote.
Republicans expressed apprehension that the legislation’s additional set of regulations and voluntary standards imposed on company’s computer networks could hurt companies and asked for more time to debate the bill.
To make matters worse for the legislation’s fate the bill was in line to be loaded up with non-relevant amendment relating to anti-abortion provisions and health care repeal votes. This led Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to cut off debate this week.
Republicans lashed out, calling Reid’s move “premature voting” with little to no opportunity to amend the legislation, and warned against lost momentum the legislation would face during a pause in the August recess.
“We are taking this vote when we should be spending our time at least certainly the rest of the day setting a framework that we could address cyber security during the first week that we are back in September,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said this morning before the vote failed, as anticipated, “I hope that this vote does not have a chilling effect on what I think was progress was being made.”
Both sides said they will come back and redouble efforts to pass what all admit is critical legislation in September. But many expressed a lack of confidence that such legislation could pass this year after today’s collapse of the legislation.