A White House-backed cyber security bill on Thursday failed to secure the necessary votes needed to bring it to a full Senate vote, effectively guaranteeing that legislation governing computer protection responsibilities for the private sector will have to wait at least another year before being passed.
The largely Democrat-supported Cybersecurity Act of 2012 would have incentivized those companies that operate critical infrastructure to meet a series of security best practices, as part of a voluntary program. The bill was re-introduced last month to include privacy concessions and rid the enforcement oversight it originally gave to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Unlike prior attempts at passing cyber security legislation, this proposal -- whose key sponsors were Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine -- carried momentum, including garnering the support of President Obama, who even recently published a Wall Street Journal op-ed urging lawmakers to act.
But upon entering the Senate this week for discussion before a planned vote prior to the August recess, the bill began facing significant challenges. A slew of senators, from both sides of the aisle, hurried to add amendments, ranging from privacy stipulations and a data breach notification addendum to seemingly unrelated ones, such as a provision that would ban high-capacity ammunition clips and a call to repeal Obama's health care reforms.
Ultimately, opposition from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- which feared the law would place too much of a burden on businesses -- and the resulting GOP filibuster was too much to overcome, with a "cloture" vote that would have broken the debate and allowed the bill to proceed to a vote failing to achieve the necessary 60 votes. It fell on Thursday 52 in favor versus 46 against, largely along party lines.
Some Democrats, however, were pleased to see the measure fail, including Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who tweeted that the bill would compromise "privacy [and] civil liberties for weak proposals to improve cyber security." Wyden had filed an amendment for the bill requiring that law enforcement obtain a search warrant before accessing location data on someone's computer or mobile device.
Jay Charney, the White House press secretary, said in a statement that this proposal was superior to the controversial House version, known as the Cyber Intelligence and Sharing Protection Act (CISPA). He blamed the bill's defeat on "the politics of obstructionism."
"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," he said.
Senate Democrats had hoped to pass the bill before the August recess, which ends after Labor Day. They failed to do so, and now with the presidential election nearing, it appears unlikely any cyber security measure will see the light of day until next year.