The House passed the controversial CISPA cybersecurity bill on Thursday, defying a White House veto threat and throwing the issue squarely into the Senate’s lap.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said the bill was “needed to prepare for countries like Iran and North Korea so that they don’t do something catastrophic to our networks here in America.”
The final tally was 248-168, enough to pass the bill but not enough to override the threatened veto. Forty-two Democrats voted for the measure, and 28 Republicans voted against it.
The administration and Democratic critics opposed the bill because of privacy and civil liberties concerns. The other main sticking point was that, unlike a Senate bill by Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), CISPA would not mandate new security requirements for a critical infrastructure network.
But the measure enjoyed support from some Democrats — who weren’t happy with their colleagues’ opposition to the bill, nor with the White House.
“It was disappointing, I think it could have been handled differently,” Rep. Jim Langevin, (D-R.I.), a CISPA co-sponsor, said of the White House move. “To do it at this stage I don’t think it was very helpful to get an information-sharing bill through.”
Langevin and other supportive Democrats say CISPA is needed to counter the possibility of a major cyberattack.
“This is not a perfect bill, but the threat is great,” Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Rogers’s chief Democratic ally, said on the House floor on Thursday.
Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that the White House was in “a camp all by themselves.” Nevertheless, most Democrats voted against the bill.
“CISPA would trample the privacy and consumer rights of our citizens while leaving our critical infrastructure vulnerable,” an administration official said Thursday in response to Boehner. “We need Congress to address this critical national and economic security challenge while respecting the values of freedom, privacy, openness and innovation so fundamental to our nation.”
The House adopted several amendments to the bill before passing it, including one by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) that added a five-year sunset to the bill.
But lawmakers voted to reject a motion to recommit by Rep. Ed Perlmuttter, who sought to add language specifying that nothing in the bill could be construed to allow employers and the government from mandating that employees and job applicants disclose confidential passwords without a court order. The defeated motion also would have added language saying that nothing in the bill could allow the government from blocking access to the Web through “the creation of a national Internet firewall similar to the ‘Great Internet Firewall of China.’”
The tech sector immediately applauded the House action on Thursday.
“We strongly urge the Senate to swiftly take up this issue because the United States cannot afford to wait to improve our nation’s cybersecurity posture,” TechAmerica CEO Shawn Osborne said in a statement. “Standing pat will only further risk our national security.”
But civil liberterians were unhappy with the outcome.
“Cybersecurity does not have to mean abdication of Americans’ online privacy. As we’ve seen repeatedly, once the government gets expansive national security authorities, there’s no going back,” ACLU legislative counsel Michelle Richardson said. “We encourage the Senate to let this horrible bill fade into obscurity.”
This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 7:13 p.m. on April 26, 2012.