POLITICS

Senate Punts On Cybersecurity Bill, Heads To Summer Break

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced a compromise on the controversial bill.

WASHINGTON ― Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday pulled the plug on a controversial cybersecurity bill amid internal disagreements over amendments, delaying the legislation at least until September. 

Under a plan McConnell announced nearly six hours after the Senate had originally planned to hold a procedural vote on the bill, Democrats will be guaranteed the chance to offer at least 11 amendments when the chamber resumes consideration, and Republicans will have 10.

With the cyber bill off the table, the Senate was expected to adjourn Wednesday night for its four-week August break.

Senate leadership had hoped to shepherd the bill through the chamber before the recess, and had been discussing a compromise to placate critics like Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who says the legislation doesn’t do enough to protect the privacy of American citizens.

Sources said, however, that the main obstacle was actually Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who was determined to secure amendments on auditing the Federal Reserve and punishing so-called sanctuary cities. Paul’s amendments were not among those named in the agreement struck Wednesday, but a leadership aide said additional amendments would still be possible.

The agreement will likely postpone debate on the cyber bill until some point after Sept. 17, the deadline for lawmakers to decide on the Iran nuclear deal. 

Wyden, who had said just hours before McConnell’s announcement that he still hoped to push the bill to after the recess, welcomed the plan.

“There would be no real opportunity to show how the legislation in its current form creates more problems than it solves,” Wyden said on the Senate floor just after McConnell detailed the deal. “There are going to be more than 20 amendments to this badly flawed bill. Those of us that want to make sure that there’s a full airing of the issues have come to understand that there is no time limit that has yet been agreed to on those amendments, so there’s going to be a real debate. And, of course, that’s what the United States Senate is all about.”

Among other controversial provisions, the bill includes protections for tech companies, such as Apple and Google, who voluntarily share information about cybersecurity threats with the government. 

Many supporters of the cyber bill remained incredulous Wednesday that McConnell hadn’t put the bill on the agenda until Monday. Doing so earlier could have given lawmakers extra time to hammer out a compromise. For instance, they noted, McConnell could have put the cyber bill on the calendar last week to follow Republicans’ failed effort on Monday to defund Planned Parenthood. But many theorized that the majority leader left the bill off in order to project optimism that the Planned Parenthood legislation actually stood a chance of being debated. (It didn’t.)

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