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Jay laments blockage of cybersecurity bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., criticized Senate Republicans on Thursday after they voted to block the Senate from voting on cybersecurity legislation, which he first proposed in 2010.

"Today's political maneuvering by Republican leadership is more than disappointing. It's reckless. We worked hard for more than three years and now, because a handful of Republican senators are afraid of crossing the Chamber of Commerce's beltway lobbyists, we may end up with nothing on this urgent issue," Rockefeller stated in a press release.

The Senate voted, 52-46, to end debate on the bill. But that was eight votes short of what was needed to block a filibuster and vote on the actual legislation.

The cybersecurity bill had bipartisan support, Rockefeller said, but fell victim to efforts by some to add amendments.

Rockefeller specifically cited demands from some senators to add a provision "repealing health care coverage for families across the country and new preventive care offerings as a condition for voting on cyber security. To combine those two issues is a cynical, political ploy."

Rockefeller said he was particularly grateful to colleagues who supported him, including: Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Thomas Carper, D-Del.; and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Comprehensive cybersecurity regulation is a "top national security priority," Rockefeller said, according to top military and intelligence officials, including Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., led a group of Republican senators who were the bill's strongest opponents, saying the computer security requirements would be a burden on companies. The bill would have set computer standards for operators of the country's major pieces of infrastructure, such as the power grids.  

Shortly after Thursday's vote that failed to stop a filibuster, the White House released a statement, arguing "the politics of obstructionism, driven by special interest groups seeking to avoid accountability, prevented Congress from passing legislation to better protect our nation from potentially catastrophic cyberattacks."

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Rockefeller added, "I promise to continue working towards common ground so we can do our jobs and pass cybersecurity legislation later this year when Congress returns."

On July 25, Rockefeller gave a speech on the Senate floor, arguing his legislation is essential to protect electric grids, water and transportation systems and gas pipelines, as well as communications and finance networks.

All of those systems, he argued, could become victimized by "cyber terrorism" possibly initiated by someone "sitting at a computer across the world."

Because of the Internet, he added, "our most important personal information, including our credit card numbers and our financial data, is now accessible via the Internet and is stolen through data breaches that occur all too often."

Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Rockefeller said, "told Congress that the cyber threat will soon overcome terrorism as the top national security focus of the FBI."

Rockefeller's proposed legislation would "create a National Cybersecurity Council that will include representatives from across the government to find the critical infrastructure that is the most vulnerable to cyber attack."

The legislation would then promote the development of "cybersecurity practices for those systems, in cooperation with the private sector."

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.

 


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