Democratic senators are urging President Obama to quickly issue an executive order to put into effect cybersecurity legislation killed by a GOP filibuster last month.
“Senate Republican opposition to this vital national security bill, coupled with the deeply-flawed House information sharing bill that threatens personal privacy while doing nothing to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure, is a profound disappointment,” the White House said at the time.
The bill would have given the government three tools that advocates say are needed to beat back cyberattackers: a focus on protecting infrastructure such as water and power grids, new information sharing on threats between the government and private industry, and new Homeland Security powers to guide the federal cybersecurity strategy.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), in opposing cloture on the bill, said it should have been subjected to the proper committee process and called the rushed legislation lacking in transparency and “a ploy to advance the fiction that we are focused on national security.”
“As I have said time and time again, the threat we face in the cyber domain is among the most significant and challenging threats of 21st century warfare. But this bill unfortunately takes us in the wrong direction and establishes a new national security precedent which fails to recognize the gravity of the threats we face in cyberspace,” McCain said on the floor in August.
The senator said a cooperative relationship between the government and private sector is needed, not “an adversarial relationship rooted in mandates used to dictate technological solutions to industry.”
“In addition to the problems with the information sharing provisions, the critical infrastructure language grants too much authority to the government, failing to consider the innovative potential of the private sector,” McCain said.
McCain was among Republicans who expressed disappointment that Congress broke for the August recess without coming to a bipartisan agreement on cybersecurity legislation as the GOP-led House did.
“When it returns next month, the Senate should address cybersecurity, but not in the ‘take it or leave it’ manner the Majority Leader pursued. Instead, it should be done in a manner that ensures our security, utilizes the most innovative aspects of the private sector and the government, and does not harm our economy. This critical effort should not fall victim to partisan politics in an election year,” he said in an Aug. 14 statement along with Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
As one of many things on the Senate’s plate in the short break between the summer and campaign recesses — the farm bill, sequestration, and the continuing resolution to fund the government for the next six months among them, with debate on the Veterans Jobs Corps Act on the schedule for tomorrow and recess expected Thursday — a quick legislative fix is unlikely.
But in a “We Can’t Wait” administration, as branded by Obama, pushing through a bill stalled in the legislative branch by executive fiat would hardly be unprecedented.
Without issuing an executive order, in June Obama ordered the Department of Homeland Security to grant “deferred action” status and a path to work authorization for illegal immigrants who arrived in the country as children. The “prosecutorial discretion” move was hailed by DREAM Act supporters who had long struggled to move legislation on the Hill.
It was criticized, though, by those who saw the executive branch countering the will of legislators to meet the demands of the president’s party.