Cybersecurity Bill Defeated

Today the Senate failed to reach the two-thirds majority required to pass the Cybersecurity bill.

The bill would have allowed the Department of Homeland Security to set security standards for public and private companies running critical infrastructures such as electric power grids, telecommunications and nuclear power plants.

The White House released the following statement.

Today, despite the strong leadership of Senators Reid, Lieberman, Collins, Rockefeller and Feinstein, an overwhelming majority of Senate Republicans blocked consideration of the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, the only comprehensive piece of cybersecurity legislation that would have begun to address vulnerabilities in the nation’s critical infrastructure systems. Senate Republican opposition to this vital national security bill, coupled with the deeply-flawed House information sharing bill that threatens personal privacy while doing nothing to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure, is a profound disappointment. The Administration sent Congress a legislative package in May 2011 that included the new tools needed by our homeland security, law enforcement, intelligence, military and private sector professionals to secure the nation, while including essential safeguards to preserve the privacy rights and civil liberties of our citizens. Since that time, Administration officials have testified at 17 hearings on cybersecurity legislation and presented over 100 briefings, including two all-Member Senate briefings and one all-Member House briefing. Despite the President’s repeated calls for Congress to act on this legislation, and despite pleas from numerous senior national security officials from this Administration and the Bush Administration, the politics of obstructionism, driven by special interest groups seeking to avoid accountability, prevented Congress from passing legislation to better protect our nation from potentially catastrophic cyber-attacks.

John McCain had previously warned against giving the government so much power. In fact, he said the following.

…if we pass this bill in its present form, which I hope we will not, we will have handed over one of the most technologically complex aspects of our national security to an agency with an abysmal track record, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The problems at DHS are too numerous to list here today. But I think I speak for many when I question the logic of putting this agency in charge of sensitive national security matters. They can’t even screen airline passengers without constant controversy. And don’t forget – this is the same outfit in charge of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program, or CFATs, which was described in a recent report as ‘at measurable risk,’ beset by deep-seated problems such as wasteful spending and a largely unqualified workforce that lacks ‘professionalism.’ I for one am not willing to take such a broad leap of faith, and entrust this complex area of our national security, and so many vibrant parts of our economy, to this ineffective, bloated government agency.