Sen. Harry Reid says he will bring up cybersecurity legislation in the lame duck session.
In response to a speech by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta last week saying that legislation was needed to prevent a potential 9/11-like cyberattack, Reed seconded that warning.
"A cyberattack could cripple our economy and infrastructure, sow chaos and cost lives," he said in a statement. "Secretary Panetta's warnings are consistent with the message that the national security community has been delivering to the Senate for months. We know what tools our national security community needs -- but in sadly predictable fashion, Senate Republicans are blocking a comprehensive cybersecurity bill that would make those tools available."
A primarily Democrat-backed version of cybersecurity legislation, the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, focuses on establishing minimum standards for critical infrastructure protection, while a Republican version, the SECURE IT Act, focuses on information sharing. One of the main stumbling blocks for Republicans in the Democratic version was the fear that those standards would morph from guidelines to mandates that would deny companies the flexibility to move quickly to respond to evolving threats.
The two sides agree there is a cyberthreat from nation states, hackers and hacktivists, but could not agree on a compromise between the two bills.
President Obama is considering implementing minimum standards via executive order, and Reid did not suggest that effort should be superseded by a lame duck attempt to pass a bill, though, like Panetta, he said that legislation was the best answer.
"Some of my colleagues have suggested that the president should delay further action to protect America from this threat until Congress can pass legislation," he said. "Secretary Panetta has made clear that inaction is not an option. I will bring cybersecurity legislation back to the Senate floor when Congress returns in November. My colleagues who profess to understand the urgency of the threat will have one more chance to back their words with action, and work with us to pass this bill. Cybersecurity is an issue that should be handled by Congress, but with Republicans engaging in Tea Party-motivated obstruction, I believe that President Obama is right to examine all means at his disposal for confronting this urgent national security threat."