WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNET) — A Democrat-sponsored cybersecurity measure that the Obama administration calls necessary to protect the nation’s infrastructure was blocked by Republicans opposed to what they considered to be undue regulation.
CBS-owned CNET reports the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 needed 60 votes to move to a vote by the full Senate, thanks to a Republican filibuster of the measure. It mustered only 52 votes in favor, which in the Senate’s upside down world allowed a minority of 46 opponents to defeat the measure. The vote mostly fell along party lines, according to Bloomberg. Senate Democrats had hoped to have a vote on the measure by the Senate before the August recess.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Susan Collins, (R-Maine), had already been watered down to meet the objections of anti-regulation Republicans who argued that forcing companies to meet minimum security standards would be unduly burdensome. The latest version made the security standards voluntary. Meanwhile, privacy advocates largely supported the revised bill after it was amended to include provisions designed to preserve civil liberties and the privacy of users that might be threatened by increased information sharing between businesses and government.
There were a flurry of late amendments, including one from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to prevent warrantless tracking of consumers via GPS and one from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to protect consumers from monitoring by ISPs. But pro-business Republican objections — and the filibuster — ruled the day, although a gun control amendment that Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) refused to withdraw may also have influenced opposing Republicans.
The security bill is considered vital to ensuring that private U.S. businesses tasked with running the electric grid, utilities, nuclear power plans and other key pieces of critical national infrastructure are taking appropriate measures to protect their facilities against attacks from hackers, cyberspies and malware.
“Regardless of today’s vote, the issue of cybersecurity is far from dead,” said Michelle Richardson, ACLU legislative counsel, in a statement. “When Congress inevitably picks up this issue again, the privacy amendments in this bill should remain the vanguard for any future bills. We’ll continue to work with Congress to make sure that the government’s cybersecurity efforts include privacy protections. Cybersecurity and our online privacy should not be a zero sum game.”
Dean Garfield, president and chief executive of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), said he was disappointed with the news. “The Senate vote is a reminder that we have a long way still to go,” he said in a statement. “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. Any effort must recognize the critical importance of private-sector leadership for information and communications technology innovation, increased information sharing, and a risk-management approach.”