Despite a strong bipartisan consensus that the United States needs a federal cybersecurity law, partisan bickering has prevented any significant progress on the many versions of cybersecurity legislation pending before Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is seeking to break the gridlock by bringing comprehensive cybersecurity legislation to the floor when Congress returns from its winter recess in January of 2012. In a letter.pdf to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senator Reid said the issue must be addressed quickly, even if it means moving ahead of Senate “working groups” that have been tasked with reconciling differences among committees that share jurisdiction over cybersecurity.
As Senator Reid points out in his letter, the Senate has been working on comprehensive cybersecurity legislation for the past two years, but the efforts have been complicated by the fact that many Senate committees claim jurisdiction over cybersecurity. For the past six month, working groups composed of staff from relevant committees have been set up to assist in negotiating consensus legislation that can be expedited to the floor. But nothing in Washington seems to happen on an expedited basis these days, and the working groups have not yet produced any consensus. Senator Reid is prepared to jumpstart the process by bringing proposed legislation to floor in January, even if the working groups have not yet reached a consensus.
While perhaps every Senator agrees with Senator Reid’s assertion that the United States needs a national cybersecurity law, it remains to be seen whether Congress can overcome the gridlock now paralyzing legislative processes, even on an issue engendering a national consensus.
We will continue to monitor and comment on significant legislative developments