Senate Moves to Consider Cyber-Security Legislation

August 5, 2015

pic-tech-computerThere are currently three major cyber-security related bills pending in the 114th Congress that address information sharing among private entities and between private entities and the federal government: the Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA), (H.R. 1560), the National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act of 2015 (NCPAA), (H.R. 1731), and the Cyber Security Information Act of 2015 (CISA), (S. 754).

It is this latter bill, S. 754, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) offered as a motion to invoke cloture on Monday, Aug. 3. Introduced by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) the measure would encourage private companies and the government to share information about cyber threats and data breaches.

Specifically, the bill creates a voluntary program for private sector sharing of cyber threat information with other private entities and the government through a portal at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The bill also establishes processes for government sharing of cyber threat information with the private sector. The bill authorizes private sector entities to take defensive measures to protect data or one’s own network or that of a customer. Finally, the bill provides liability protection for private sector entities sharing cyber threat information or taking defensive measures.

On March 13, 2015, the Senate Intelligence Committee held a markup on CISA and voted 14-1 to advance the legislation. Despite the lopsided vote in committee, a number of amendments that are intended to enhance privacy safeguards in the bill are expected during floor consideration.

Beyond germane amendments, it is unclear whether Senators on either side of the aisle will use this final legislative vehicle before the August recess to seek votes on unrelated, politically contentious issues. At this time, the course of the debate and the prospects of completing consideration of CISA this week remain uncertain. If the debate gets bogged down, it is likely the Senate will break for recess prior to its completion.

On June 11, 2015, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on Burr Amendment #1569 to the National Defense Authorization Act (the text of S. 754), by a vote of 56-40, due to procedural, not substantive, concerns raised by Democrats. This will be the Senates second attempt at passing CISA. However, even if the Senate does pass its version of CISA this week, the bill will still have to be reconciled with two different bills, one from the Intelligence Committee and one from the Homeland Security Committee that the House has passed before Congress can vote on a final cyber-security bill. Therefore, the road to final legislative action on the subject is still unclear.

To review the complete text of S.754, please click here.