Nov. 8, 2012 – 5:55 p.m.

Cybersecurity Bill Among Senate’s First Order of Business

Cybersecurity legislation is slated as one of the likely first bills the Senate will take up next week when the chamber begins its lame-duck session.

Multiple aides and lobbyists said they expect the legislation (S 3414) to come to the floor next week, right after the Senate considers the sportsmen bill (S 3523) sponsored by Jon Tester, D-Mont.

“Cybersecurity legislation could come to the floor as soon as next week, though we’ll have a better sense of timing once members are back in town,” said one Senate Democratic aide.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., tried to push the cybersecurity bill through in August, but a procedural vote to end debate fell short, with Republicans primarily opposing it. The two parties were at odds on what amendments to consider as well as on the substance of the legislation.

Among other objections, many in the GOP were opposed to language that would create voluntary security standards for the most at-risk computer networks owned by the private sector, standards they said they feared could become mandatory in practice.

Even as the bill was being debated on the floor, the two factions tried to reach agreement behind closed doors, but they made little progress.

“The vote on the cybersecurity bill will be the first real test of how Democrats and Republicans will work together in the lame- duck session and beyond,” a second Senate aide said. “Are Republicans ready to compromise to achieve reasonable solutions? Or will they continue to obstruct congressional action? This could be a bellwether vote.”

A spokesman for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rejected that characterization.

“People have always been willing to compromise, but Sen. Reid never gave them the chance — he filled the tree and filed cloture despite pledging an open amendment process,” said the spokesman, Don Stewart.

The GOP-controlled House has passed a cybersecurity bill (HR 3523) that is narrower in scope than the Reid-backed and White House-backed Senate legislation. It focuses only on bolstering threat information sharing between businesses and the federal government.

Emily Cadei contributed to this story.