WASHINGTON A bipartisan cybersecurity bill backed by the financial industry failed to clear a key procedural hurdle Thursday evening, raising fresh questions about when or if the legislation can advance past the Senate floor this year.
The issue came into focus this week when Senate Republican leadership moved to include the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, which would make it easier for government and business to share information about cyber threats, as an amendment to a major Defense Department authorization bill. Democrats balked at the last-minute addition, and the amendment died 56-40, four votes short of the 60 needed for cloture.
The legislative window for the year is rapidly closing, with supporters of the bill hoping for another shot at a vote, ideally before the Congress goes on break later this summer.
"Our working assumption is that this will become an even more difficult of a lift if it's not off the Senate floor by August," said Dave Oxner, managing director of federal government relations at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.
He emphasized that the stumbling block this time around appeared to be more process-focused than substantive.
"You didn't hear as much criticism on the substance of the bill you heard criticism of the process and discussion of the need to offer amendments and have a robust debate," Oxner said.
The move to bring the bill up for consideration comes on the heels of news about a major security breach at the Office of Personnel Management, which handles records for millions of current and former federal workers.
The information-sharing legislation cleared the Senate Intelligence Committee 14-1 earlier this spring, and the House recently passed similar legislation, setting up the possibility for a bicameral conference if the Senate can move forward. A spokesman for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the senator has not made any announcements about when the bill could come up again.
Still, backers of CISA noted that six Democrats and Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine who generally caucuses with the party, supported the measure despite the broader pushback from Minority Leader Harry Reid and other lawmakers. Privacy advocates have also raised repeated warnings about the bill.
"I don't think this effort is dead by any stretch," said James Ballentine, executive vice president of congressional relations and political affairs at the American Bankers Association. "The bipartisan nature of the vote is a good indication of the level of support."