Republican lawmakers continue to withhold support for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency until their immigration concerns are addressed.
A leading Republican on the House Appropriations Committee will not support a bill that significantly increases funding for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency due to disputes over immigration issues raised by the administration of former President Donald Trump.
“For some of the bill's funding, we are in complete agreement: cybersecurity, [Transportation Security Administration], Secret Service, and Scientific and Technology, just to name a few,” said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., ranking member of Appropriation's subcommittee on Homeland Security. “The proposed investments are worthy of our support. However, in order to truly get across the finish line, we must come to a reasonable agreement on the immigration issues and until that is done, we just cannot support this bill in its current form.”
The subcommittee held a business meeting Tuesday to markup funding bills for the departments of Homeland Security and Defense. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., chair of the full Appropriations committee, said she expects markups of all 12 funding bills for the federal government will be complete by the end of the week.
Amendments to boost the Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies, including for border wall construction, were defeated along party lines with Democrats in clear control. An increase of $397 million for CISA hangs in the balance as Congress proceeds to funding negotiations with the more evenly divided Senate. And key Democrats argue the infusion would be coming at a crucial time as organizations across the country face ransomware and other cyberattacks.
“Now more than ever, the risks we face from cyberattacks threaten both our economic and our national security,” DeLauro said. “As the Colonial Pipeline hack demonstrated, we need historic investments to protect our networks. With $2.42 billion for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, this bill responds with the urgency necessary to meet the moment.”
Subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., offered to work with Republicans to address some of their concerns—including those outlined in an amendment on border surveillance technology—but she stressed increasing funds for the border security agencies “would put us in a position of having to cut in other high priority areas.”
That particular amendment would have struck language in the committee’s funding report for DHS requiring CBP to publicly disclose and notify border communities of surveillance technologies before they’re deployed.
“This would effectively give the cartels and other nefarious actors a map [to] security information,” Rep. Ben Cline, R-Va., said introducing the amendment. “Not only does this put our border patrol agents and American citizens at higher risk. It puts undue stress on those technologies and the providers that maintain them, as it would escalate them as targets.”
Roybal-Allard countered that the provision simply helps with the committee’s oversight but was sympathetic and offered to negotiate.
“The language in the report addresses legitimate concerns with surveillance and other technologies that potentially infringe on the privacy rights of border and indigenous communities,” she said. “This report language helps the committee with its oversight, and that is exactly what it is intended to do. However, I do understand the concerns that the gentleman has, and if he is willing to withdraw the amendment, perhaps, you know, we can work on something, to make sure that it addresses the specific concerns that he has with regards to this provision.”
Cline declined the offer as Republicans continue to use whatever leverage they can to drive their immigration priorities.
On Monday, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, and Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., chairwoman of Homeland’s subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Innovation released a statement on the Senate confirmation of Jen Easterly to lead CISA. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla, had been blocking Easterly’s vote until Vice President Kamala Harris visited the southern border.
“It is unfortunate that political games delayed her confirmation, but we are pleased the Senate has finally acted to confirm Jen Easterly as CISA Director,” the chairs said. “At a time when cyber threats are increasing and evolving, Jen Easterly brings the experience and leadership needed to strengthen our nation’s cybersecurity. We look forward to working with her to ensure CISA is best positioned to fulfill its mission of protecting Federal networks and critical infrastructure.”