By Brendan Sasso | The Hill
Senate Republicans recently blocked cybersecurity legislation, but the issue might not be dead after all.
The White House hasn’t ruled out issuing an executive order to strengthen the nation’s defenses against cyberattacks if Congress refuses to act.
“In the wake of Congressional inaction and Republican stall tactics, unfortunately, we will continue to be hamstrung by outdated and inadequate statutory authorities that the legislation would have fixed,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in an email.
“Moving forward, the President is determined to do absolutely everything we can to better protect our nation against today’s cyber threats and we will do that,” Carney said.
The White House has emphasized that better protecting vital computer systems is a top priority.
The administration proposed its own legislation package in 2011, sent officials to testify at 17 congressional hearings and presented more than 100 briefings on the issue. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, President Obama warned that a successful cyberattack on a bank, water system, electrical grid or hospital could have devastating consequences.
The president urged Congress to pass the Cybersecurity Act, which was offered by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). The bill would have encouraged private companies and the government to share information about cyber threats and would have required critical infrastructure operators to meet minimum cybersecurity standards.
But Senate Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), worried the bill would burden businesses with unnecessary and ineffective regulations.
The bill’s sponsors watered down the regulatory provisions, replacing the security mandates with voluntary incentives, but that wasn’t enough to win over Republicans. The bill mustered 52 votes in the Senate, well short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.
If Obama issues an order on cybersecurity, it wouldn’t be the first time that his administration has resorted to executive action to bypass Congress.