Yesterday afternoon, after an unsuccessful push for a cloture vote on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell withdrew the bill from consideration until after the August recess.
The Senate failed to a strike a deal on proposed amendments to the bill, and as the Washington Post noted:
Even many Democrats who were ready to support the bill protested they didn’t have enough time to offer amendments – the central sticking point leading up to Wednesday’s expected procedural motion to advance the bill.
With time running out, a failure to reach a compromise on amendments, and significant public pushback from civil libertarians (see Operation: Fax Big Brother), the Senate found itself in a less-than-ideal position for a vote on CISA. The legislation will likely return to the fore after the Senate takes up various other priorities in September, including appropriations, nominations, and the Iran nuclear deal. When the Senate reconvenes it will also consider amendments to CISA – 10 from Republicans and 11 from Democrats.
Some observers credited the last-minute Planned Parenthood defunding effort with delaying consideration of CISA; others have lauded Sen. Rand Paul for proposing amendments unrelated to the legislation (such as requiring an audit of the Federal Reserve, permitting armed service members to carry weapons on military bases, and stripping federal funds from sanctuary cities). While these helped delay the bill, credit ought also be given to the Stop Cyber Spying coalition members that pushed Operation: Fax Big Brother and their efforts to keep concerns over expanded state surveillance, privacy, and operational efficacy in the limelight when discussing CISA.
So what happens now that the bill has made its unceremonious, albeit temporary, exit?
Although recent events held the possibility of improving CISA, including a manager’s amendment released earlier this week, it was never likely the bill would have received the necessary time for real debate and compromise before the recess. A great deal can happen between now and Congress’s return in a month, and with a relatively crowded fall schedule, the prospect of CISA being pushed back even further certainly remains a possibility.
In the meantime, it would behoove policymakers to once more consider the many arguments that have stacked up against CISA over the past few months. The sooner legislators recognize the folly of attempting to legislate cybersecurity through an information-sharing regime that does far more to expand surveillance and undermine due process, the sooner Congress can return to the drawing board and craft a bill better suited to keeping cyberspace secure.