December 17, 2015. The House is set to vote tomorrow on an omnibus spending bill that has drawn fire from privacy advocates because it includes cyber threat information-sharing legislation that is viewed by some as insufficiently protective of personal data. Efforts by the conservative House Freedom Caucus to strip the cyber legislation from the spending bill were rejected by the House Rules Committee, and while individual members spoke against the cyber language today on the House floor, their numbers appeared to be insufficient to block the bill’s passage.
The bill’s momentum was aided further by a supportive statement from the White House, which noted that cyber threat information-sharing legislation had been one of its goals for some time. The Senate, meanwhile, reached agreement today on procedures to streamline adoption of the bill.
Advocates on both sides of the issue continued to speak out today, with Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) calling for adoption of a short-term spending resolution to give lawmakers more time to consider the massive spending bill. “The omnibus spending bill soon to come before us is chock full of controversial policies that never would have passed had they been exposed to the light of day,” including the cyber provisions, Sen. Lee said. “None of these policy changes would have passed by themselves. These are highly controversial policies and merit an open and honest debate on the Senate floor.”
Other lawmakers, however, said the cyber legislation was a reasonable compromise between the need to bolster the nation’s cyber defenses while respecting civil liberties. The bill’s privacy provisions “are less detailed and prescriptive than the legislation we advanced out of the Homeland Security Committee,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.), the committee’s ranking member. “However, it does give significant attention to privacy concerns by solidifying DHS’ civilian role in the cyber information-sharing space and tasking DHS and the Justice Department to work together to develop privacy guidelines for this new program,” Rep. Thompson said.
The cyber provisions in the bill were the product of a conference committee that sought to reconcile the provisions of three similar cyber threat information-sharing bills (TRDaily, Dec. 16). — Tom Leithauser, email@example.com