McConnell Predicts Senate Passage of Cybersecurity Bill

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By Alexei Alexis

Oct. 20 — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) predicted that his chamber will soon pass long-delayed cybersecurity legislation, but the process is expected to be drawn out as lawmakers weigh concerns raised by privacy advocates and leading U.S. technology industry stakeholders.

The Senate on Oct. 20 began debate on a revised version of the bill (S. 754) incorporating new privacy language and other changes. Final passage could come early the week of Oct. 26, McConnell indicated.

“This is legislation that we're confident we can pass and conference with the House,” he told reporters Oct. 20, following Senate Republicans' weekly policy lunch.

Later, McConnell teed up a vote that would allow the Senate to overcome procedural obstacles to final passage.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has continued to oppose the bill despite new tweaks unveiled by the sponsors.

The legislation “will intentionally reduce the personal privacy of millions of Americans in a very substantial way,” he said Oct. 20 on the Senate floor.

Privacy Concerns

The bill would provide legal immunity to companies that voluntarily share cyberthreat data with other private entities or the government. The measure is opposed by privacy advocates, who worry that it could be used for surveillance purposes.

While the proposal enjoys strong support from a wide range of business organizations, technology industry stakeholders such as Twitter Inc. have raised privacy concerns.

An effort by McConnell to get the measure through his chamber before the August recess was unsuccessful. But lawmakers were able to reach a unanimous consent agreement allowing the bill to come to the floor at a time of McConnell's choosing. The agreement allowed 21 amendments to be made pending.

A substitute bill unveiled by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Committee Vice Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Oct. 20 contained eight of the 21 amendments, including one from Wyden that would require procedures to notify an individual whose personal information is improperly shared or disclosed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexei Alexis in Washington at aalexis@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

The substitute amendment can be found at: http://src.bna.com/Fd.