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Cybersecurity Act Faces Headwinds from K Street

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

photo of Michael Catalini
November 14, 2012

Sure, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said cybersecurity would come up in the lame duck, but that doesn't mean it's going to pass.

That is, not if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has anything to say about it. The powerful business lobby's opposition has some Republicans scratching their heads. 

"I'm baffled by the Chamber's strident opposition," Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a cosponsor of the bill, told the Alley.

The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 was on Reid's informal list of unfinished business for the 112th Congress and he vowed in October to bring the bill to the floor for a vote when members return. 

Now they're back, and Reid said on the floor on Tuesday that President Obama backed the bill as well. But the measure is facing powerful headwinds from lobbyists, especially the Chamber. 

‚ÄúThere is a healthy and robust disagreement about the proper role of government in regulating the business community, given the incredibly dynamic nature of cybersecurity threats, and it is far from resolved," the Chamber's Matthew Eggers recently told the Alley.

Translation? Even after the bill's cosponsors, including Collins and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., removed mandatory standards from the measure, the bill still does not pass muster for the Chamber.

Why?

The revised, voluntary standards in the bill could still exert pressure on businesses to regulate themselves, the Chamber argues. 

"The bill would give federal departments and agencies too much authority over what actions businesses could take to protect their information systems," Eggers said.

Representatives from the Chamber met with a group of senators, including Sen. Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., on Tuesday, Collins said. How did the meeting go?

"Not encouraging," Collins said.

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