WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday narrowly rejected an amendment that U.S. Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada said would have strengthened privacy protections to a cybersecurity bill that was later approved by the upper chamber.
The bill aims to reduce the threat of malicious Internet attacks by allowing more information sharing between government agencies and the private sector. It includes a requirement that federal agencies first strip out personal information they know is not related to the cyber threat.
Heller’s amendment would have broadened the requirement to say they “reasonably believe” is not related to the cyber threat.
The amendment was defeated 49-47 with four Republican senators missing the vote to be on the campaign trail.
Heller expressed frustration with the missing Republican colleagues — particularly Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who was in Nevada Tuesday campaigning for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.
“The irony of that, to me, is not lost that he could have spent his time much more wisely here in Washington, D.C., fighting for personal liberties than being on some talk show in Nevada,” Heller said.
Paul opened a campaign office in Southern Nevada on Monday and was scheduled to appear on “Ralston Live” on Tuesday.
Heller said he would have had a better chance at winning approval of his amendment had Paul, who is a strong supporter of personal liberties, had been on hand.
“He could have helped lobby on behalf of something like this,” said Heller, who noted that last week he had voted in favor of an amendment that Paul had sponsored. “He would have supported this … yeah it is frustrating.”
Also missing the vote were Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and David Vitter, R-La. Cruz and Rubio are also running for president. Vitter is running for governor of his home state.
While Heller opposed the cybersecurity bill on passage, he plans to continue to push for his amendment to be included in a final version of the bill that is expected to be negotiated between the House and Senate. The House had previously approved its version of the bill.
“This isn’t the end,” he said.
Heller is optimistic that his amendment will be included because it came so close to passing in the Senate. He also noted that the House bill provides a similar requirement for private businesses to strip out personal information they reasonably believe is not related to a cyber threat before sharing the data.
The Senate approved the cybersecurity bill, 74 to 21.
Contact Peter Urban at email@example.com or at 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @PUrbanDC