The Senate on Thursday fell eight votes short of advancing a bill to improve cybersecurity for American businesses and government.
Voting 52-46, the Senate failed to meet the necessary 60 votes to move forward on the bill, which would have established voluntary security standards for businesses while also encouraging businesses to share cyberthreats with the government, improving cybersecurity training and updating federal security policies.
The vote was expected, as chances for passage had already dimmed earlier in the week.
The White House had been pushing for the legislation, arguing that the bill was necessary to defend the U.S. from electronic attacks. National security officials had argued particularly forcefully for the bill, and even the bill's authors noted that cyberattacks were costing U.S. businesses $250 billion a year.
Meanwhile, most Republicans said the bill would have a negative and unfair impact on businesses, noting that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was opposed to the bill.
GOP Senators said even though the standards were voluntary, they could lead to mandatory rules. The Chamber of Commerce, for example, called the voluntary standards a "springboard" to federal regulation.
Senators from both parties said Thursday's vote means the bill won't pass before the month-long August recess that begins next week.
However, some prominent Republicans such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona said the bill could be revived this fall or next year since only a few issues are unresolved.
The cybersecurity bill once seemed like a sure bet but became bogged down in amendment talks mid-week after Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, tried to attach an amendment that would ban abortions in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Commenting on the vote, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, "Senate Republican opposition to this vital national security bill, coupled with the deeply-flawed House information sharing bill that threatens personal privacy while doing nothing to protect the nation's critical infrastructure, is a profound disappointment."
"Despite pleas from numerous senior national security officials from this Administration and the Bush Administration, the politics of obstructionism, driven by special interest groups seeking to avoid accountability, prevented Congress from passing legislation to better protect our nation from potentially catastrophic cyber-attacks," he added.
by RTT Staff Writer
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