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Commerce aide: Cybersecurity bill moving

Legislation to help the government and private sector better prepare for and respond to high-tech attacks against communications infrastructure has a shot at Senate passage this year despite the crowded calendar and potential turf wars, a top Senate aide said today.

"Between health care, climate change and a number of huge issues of the day, it can't be lost that this is a critically important issue," said Senate Commerce Committee General Counsel Bruce Andrews at a briefing sponsored by Hewlett-Packard. "We've got to focus and do it."

Senate Commerce Chairman John (Jay) Rockefeller and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, introduced a broad cybersecurity bill in April, but it underwent major changes during the August recess and is being fine-tuned.

Andrews said Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee leaders have been crafting proposals as Rockefeller and Snowe have focused on the healthcare debate. The issue requires "real cooperation" among committees, he said.

An August e-mail from Andrews to outside groups said the Commerce Committee was aiming for a hearing and a markup in September or October. Some industry players were told last month that the panel hoped to circulate a fresh draft and vote on the bill before the end of October. But Andrews said today he did not want to set arbitrary deadlines, adding that Rockefeller had instructed him to "move it when we get it right."

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs ranking member Susan Collins will soon unveil a measure that would give the Homeland Security Department, rather than a White House czar, primary authority to protect federal civilian and private computer networks. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joseph Lieberman plans to outline his bill at a Chamber of Commerce speech Oct. 30, but he and Collins will likely work out a compromise.

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