2012 Cybersecurity Act Spends Recess in Time-Out

by Jennifer MacArthur

The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 failed to reach a final vote Thursday, one day before Congress’ August recess. Just eight votes shy of the 60 needed during a procedural vote, the Senate voted 52- 46 to end debate and force a final vote on the measure. Without a final vote Thursday, however, many of the bill’s supporters felt pessimistic that a compromise could be reached this year, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Introduced by Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, the bill would have established cybersecurity standards for the nation’s electric supply, financial transactions, transportation system and telecommunications system, according to Yahoo News.

 “The security bill is considered vital to ensuring that private U.S. businesses, tasked with running the electric grid, utilities, nuclear power plants, and other key pieces of critical national infrastructure, are taking appropriate measure to protect their facilities against attacks from hackers, cyberspies and malware,” according to Elinor Mills of CNET.

The bill contained three elements which the government needs to fend off cyberattacks, John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, said to CNN. These elements include new, threat-information-sharing between the government and private industry, better protection of critical infrastructure such as the power grid and water filtration facilities, and authority for the Department of Homeland Security to unite federal resources to lead the government’s cybersecurity team, according to CNN.

“The risks to our nation are real and immediate,” Brennan told CNN.

A largely bi-partisan bill supported by the Obama administration, the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 continued to meet resistance from a group of Republicans led by John McCain of Arizona. McCain argued the bill would be too burdensome to corporations, according to The New York Times.

McCain later told CNN that spending time outlining the progress of the bill after the break would have been a better use of time.

“I hope that this vote does not have a chilling effect on what I think was progress being made,” he told CNN Thursday morning.

Despite disappointment, Lieberman told reporters he hopes to find common ground on the issue soon.
“It’s not just another political argument in a campaign,” Lieberman told reporters after the vote Thursday. “This is about what everyone acknowledges is rising to be a serious threat to America’s security in the years ahead, and that is the fact that we’re not adequately defended against cyberattacks.”
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