One bipartisan bill that has been introduced in the Senate takes a comprehensive approach, and though it would not set up a cyber authority within the White House, it would grant the Department of Homeland Security new regulatory powers over private-sector operators. A GOP-backed bill in the upper chamber was introduced as an alternative that would instead focus more narrowly on mechanisms to enable government and businesses to share information about cyber threats without concern for legal or regulatory consequences.
The comprehensive measure in the Senate, backed by Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), was put on the fast track by Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had signaled that he planned to bring the bill to a floor debate shortly, though lately other issues such as the "Buffet rule" bill have jumped to the head of the line for Senate consideration. A Reid spokesman could not immediately be reached to comment on the latest timetable for the floor debate on the Lieberman-Collins cybersecurity bill.
Backers of the Republican alternative, led by Arizona's John McCain, have objected to the process of the cybersecurity debate, which has seen the comprehensive measure sail through committee without debate or an opportunity to introduce amendments. Reid and others have insisted that the floor debate will be an open process that will offer ample time for members to air concerns and bring forth amendments.
In the meantime, several committees in the House have been examining the cybersecurity question, and GOP leaders plan to bring the various piecemeal bills up for debate later this month in what they are reportedly dubbing "cyber week." One of those measures, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), easily passed the House Intelligence Committee in December. That measure, backed by intelligence committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Maryland's Dutch Ruppersberger, the ranking Democrat on the panel, would facilitate new channels of information sharing between businesses and the federal government.