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Republican Filibuster Kills Cybersecurity Act Of 2012 In Senate

While federal officials plea for legislation, Chamber of Commerce puts weight behind defeat of cybersecurity bill

Republicans in the U.S. Senate last week quashed a vote on the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, effectively ending hope that federal legislation will be passed this year.

The White House-backed bill, which promised improvements in information sharing and critical infrastructure protection, had the support of many of the federal government's top cybersecurity officials, as well as most Democrats in the Senate.

However, Republicans may have been affected by big business interests, including the Chamber of Commerce, which stood against the bill. Some businesses feared that the requirements outlined in the bill would invite too much government regulation, even after the bill was amended to make some components voluntary.

On Thursday, Republicans led a filibuster against the bill. On Friday, the measure fell short of the 60-vote threshold needed to end debate, 52-47, with 41 Republicans joined by six Democrats voting in support of the filibuster.

Experts say the defeat is probably a death knell for the act, which has no direct counterpart in the House of Representatives. The House did pass a bill earlier this year that mandates greater information sharing, but the White House expressed concerns that the bill did not do enough to protect user privacy. The Senate bill included information-sharing provisions that had been negotiated with civil liberties groups.

Federal cybersecurity officials said they were in favor of the bill because it imposed standards for securing critical infrastructure. But the Chamber of Commerce resisted mandatory standards and, in the end, even voluntary standards were voted down.

"The Chamber believes [the bill] could actually impede U.S. cyber security by shifting businesses' resources away from implementing robust and effective security measures and toward meeting government mandates," wrote Bruce Josten, the chamber's chief lobbyist, in a letter to senators last week.

"It's incomprehensible why they are opposing it," said John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism adviser, in a press conference last week. "It's not grounded in facts nor in national security concerns."

IT and cybersecurity companies expressed regret that the Senate could not pass the bill. Dean C. Garfield, ITI president and CEO, issued this statement:

"The Senate has worked to shape bipartisan cybersecurity legislation that would help to protect the country from ever-evolving cyber dangers," said Dean Garfield, president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), in a statement.

"The tech sector strongly backs efforts to develop a collaborative, innovative cybersecurity structure that can protect public safety, national security, and economic stability," Garfield. "The Senate vote is a reminder that we have a long way still to go. We hope that, despite this setback, Senators will continue to work with stakeholders and reach agreement on a proposal that embraces security innovation as the best way to counter the threats we all know are out there."

Tom Kellermann, vice president of cybersecurity at Trend Micro, agreed. "It is in our best interest for the U.S. economy to sustain e-commerce by providing higher levels of security for federal agencies and creating a standard of care for critical infrastructures," he said. "As buildings adhere to fire codes, so too must critical infrastructures develop cybersecurity codes."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add a Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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