You may recall that hopes were high this summer that the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 would become law, as various advocacy groups attempted to reach compromises on the most controversial portions of the bill, resulting in it being revised to address those groups’ concerns. Then, on August 2nd, the Senate voted 52-46 (largely along party lines) against moving forward.
Perhaps expecting a more moderate Senate after the conclusion of the election season, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid worked with Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins to schedule another vote on the same bill for yesterday afternoon. But, Mr. Reid may have been a little too optimistic, as the Senators voted 51-47 for the same result. Now, his tenor has changed a bit: “A bill that was and is most important to national security was just killed, and that’s cybersecurity,” he said after the vote. “So everyone should understand cybersecurity is dead for this Congress.”
For his part, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed Mr. Reid for the failure, pinning opposition to the bill on the lack of an open amendment process. However, Mr. McConnell left open the possibility of further debate in this session. “My expectation is that sometime in December after we have completed [consideration of other bills], we will then attempt to get an agreement on amendments to the cybersecurity bill,” he said.
Meanwhile, as expected, newly re-elected President Obama is not waiting on the legislature to take action. Even in the heat of campaigning in mid-October, the President managed to sign a policy directive outlining the classified role the government and military will play in the event of cyberwarfare waged on the nation’s government and private computer networks. And, though the President had little to no chance to review his administration’s draft executive order prior to the election, cybersecurity is one of his administration’s top priorities going into his second term, and issuance of the order could come any day.
The election is over, but partisan politics is alive and well in Washington, D.C. We should expect to see cybersecurity issues raised on a daily basis, through the end of this year and well into the next.