Cybersecurity bipartisanship likely to survive midterm election
In the week since Election Day, cybersecurity lobbyists in Washington are anticipating their jobs will mostly stay the same — even if Republicans take control of the House of Representatives.
Why it matters: Since cyberattacks aren’t going anywhere, lawmakers and lobbyists are optimistic they can push through rules on software security, critical infrastructure security oversight and federal IT spending, even in a closely split Congress.
State of play: As of Tuesday morning, several House races remain uncalled, leaving the lower chamber's balance of power in flux.
- Democrats will hold onto their slight majority in the Senate after winning close races in Nevada and Arizona.
- The Associated Press reported this morning that the GOP is one seat away from winning a majority in the House.
The intrigue: While the potential for a change in party control could slow progress for other issue areas, cyber lobbyists so far don't see a need to change their tactics since most cyber legislation goes through with bipartisan co-sponsors.
- "There's a pretty good history of Republicans and Democrats working together to address cybersecurity challenges," says Henry Young, a policy director at BSA | The Software Alliance focused on cyber issues. "My expectation is that will continue."
- Part of the reason for this is that cyberattacks will just keep happening, creating constant pressure for lawmakers to keep focusing on cyber, says Mike Flynn, vice president and counsel at the Information Technology Industry Council.
Details: Even if cyber bipartisanship isn't expected to change, House leaders at the helm of key cybersecurity committees will.
- Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) is retiring at the end of the year, leaving a vacancy in the top Republican position on the House Homeland Security Committee. So far, lobbyists expect Republican Reps. Dan Crenshaw (Texas) and Mark Green (Tenn.) to run for the position.
- Crenshaw and Green would bring different leadership styles to the committees. At the helm of the Homeland Security Committee, Green, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, would likely have more of a focus on border security and immigration.
- On the Senate side, Homeland Security ranking member Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is also retiring.
Between the lines: Another big reason why bipartisanship is expected to remain is because Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) will still lead the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
- Lobbyists widely consider Peters — who co-authored a law requiring critical infrastructure operators to report incidents to the government — as the go-to lawmaker on cybersecurity. The vast majority of cyber bills don't get through Congress without his sign-off.
- Some of the issues on Congress' to-do list include a Peters bill targeting open-source software security and another one updating the government's federal IT cybersecurity strategy.
Yes, but: The most aggressive cyber actions are still expected out of the White House instead of Congress, says Andrew Howell, a cyber lobbyist at Monument Advocacy.
- So far, the Biden administration has launched several sprints focused on strengthening critical infrastructure sectors, released an executive order overhauling the government's resilience against cyberattacks, and started exploring federal cyber insurance options.
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