Republicans Again Filibuster Opportunity to Strengthen Nation's Cybersecurity

November 14, 2012

SCom: CommunicationsWASHINGTON, D.C.— Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV today released the following statement after the Senate failed to pass the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 by a vote of 51-47.

“Once again, Senate Republicans have chosen to filibuster much-needed cybersecurity legislation and, in so doing, have ignored the advice of the country’s most senior military and national security officials. After working in the Senate for more than four years on this issue, I was hopeful that today’s vote would mark a critical step in this bill’s path to law.  But Republican members have once again sided with the Chamber of Commerce, and not our military officials, on a national security issue. My communications with CEOs of America’s five hundred largest companies make clear that outside the beltway, most executives support the Senate’s efforts to protect our nation against cyber attacks and understand the seriousness of the threat our country faces. It is beyond me why Republicans cannot come to a similar conclusion that decisive action is needed.

“I am grateful to Leader Reid for refusing to allow obstructionist tactics prevent a second vote on the floor and to Senators Lieberman, Collins, Feinstein, Carper and others who have worked tirelessly to strengthen our country’s cybersecurity. Every day we fail to act brings us closer to a catastrophic cyber attack, which is why I again urge President Obama to employ all available executive means to strengthen our economic and national security.”

Prepared Floor Statement – Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman

Mr. President.  For four years, we have been pushing the United States Senate to pass a bill to improve our nation’s cybersecurity.  During this time, the cybersecurity threat to our country—to our way of life—has only grown.  We have now seen cyber attacks against our nation’s pipelines, against our financial industry, and even against nuclear power plants.

The good news is we have not yet suffered a devastating cyber attack.  At this point, we are still only talking about the potential impacts.  We have not yet suffered an attack that greatly disrupts our financial industry.  Or an attack that cripples our electric grid.  But these potential outcomes are real.  And it is imperative that we begin addressing the risks.  

Today, we have the opportunity to begin this important work by moving forward with the Cybersecurity Act of 2012.  We have the opportunity to show the American people that we can rise above politics to do the job that they expect of us.  

National security is one of our most sacred obligations as members of this body.  If a vote on cybersecurity fails today, we will have failed to meet that obligation for the 112th Congress.  

I will be the first person to admit that this bill is not perfect.  I have been clear that I believe a regulatory approach was the best approach to ensure that our country’s most critical infrastructure addresses its cybersecurity vulnerabilities.  We moved to a voluntary approach to seek a compromise.  Yet it wasn’t enough for some of our colleagues.  Frankly, I don’t understand why. 

I know the Chamber of Commerce decided that it didn’t like this bill.  But sometimes we need to make decisions that the Chamber of Commerce isn’t happy with.  Because it’s not the Chamber’s job to worry about national security.  That’s the job of our military.  And they have been quite clear about what’s needed. They have told us that they need this legislation.  They have implored us to act. General Alexander, the Director of the National Security Agency, knows what is at stake.  And his warnings have been dire.  

He has said, “The cyber threat facing the Nation is real and demands immediate action.”

He has said, “The time to act is now.”  

General Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote me a letter earlier this year about the urgent need for comprehensive cybersecurity legislation. In the letter, he explained that our “adversaries will increasingly attempt to hold our Nation’s core critical infrastructure at risk.”  

He stated that “we cannot afford to leave our electricity grid and transportation system vulnerable to attack.”  

Both Generals agreed that we must do something and they both pushed the Senate to adopt comprehensive cybersecurity legislation that tracks the specifics of the bill we have been debating.  Despite this urgent advice from our nation’s top military advisors, that we need to act and that we need to do it now, some Senators suggested in August that we needed more time to debate cybersecurity.  I strongly disagreed with this notion.  But now we have had another few months to think about this bill.  Today, there is simply no more reason for delay.  

We passed a Cybersecurity bill out of the Commerce Committee in March 2010.  And it passed unanimously. The Homeland Security Committee, led by Senators Lieberman and Collins, passed their cybersecurity bill by a voice vote in June 2010.  The bills both went through Committees well over two years ago. Since that time, we have had hundreds of meetings with the private sector, interest groups, and national security experts. Senators have received multiple classified briefings about the nature of this threat.  Everyone has had plenty of time to think about this issue. And we have made it quite clear that we are looking to compromise on this legislation.  But to compromise you need a partner.  I am hoping that our Republican colleagues are now willing to be our partners on this legislation.

I hope that my colleagues will reconsider the path we’re on.  At some point, if we don’t do anything, there will be a major cyber attack and it will do great damage to the United States.  After it’s over, the American people will ask, just as they asked after 9/11, what could we have done to stop this?

If we don’t pass this legislation, they’ll learn about days like this one and their disappointment in us and the United States Senate will grow.  And we’ll deserve their disappointment.  Because we have had the opportunity to act and we’ve failed.  

I yield the floor.