Friday, September 28, 2018

Senate HSGAC Committee Amends and Adopts Bills – 09-26-18

Earlier this week the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a business meeting at which a number of bills were considered, amended and ordered favorably reported. As is typical of the Senate committee operations, there are no public copies of the amendments provided before or after hearings. We will have to wait to see the reported version of the bill to see exactly what changes have been made.

S 3405 – CFATS Reauthorization

Sen. Johnson (R,WI) offered substitute language on the bill which was subsequently modified by two amendments by Sen. McCaskill (D,MO). All three amendments were adopted by voice votes as was the final bill.

There was some interesting back and forth between Johnson and McCaskill about this bill. McCaskill was concerned about the lack of bipartisan effort in the writing of this bill. She went so far as to complain about ‘industry being in driver’s seat’ in writing the bill [35:07 in the video]. She gave an example of this continuing during the substitute language development where whistleblower protections were added to last week’s draft of the language but were subsequently removed before this week’s hearing.

At the end of that discussion McCaskill made the comment that the bill “will not get my consent on the floor unless we get the whistleblower protections back in the bill” [39:26]. This referred back to an off-mike discussion between Johnson and the staff where he was apparently reminded that the bill will have to be considered on the Senate floor under the unanimous consent process rather than the ‘normal’ debate and amend process. This is due to the lack of time remaining in the session.

McCaskill had two amendments that were offered, considered, and adopted by voice vote. The first had to do with the recognition program. She noted that that changes were made to recognition program [40:04] and her first amendment would modify that language to authorize a DHS mechanism to recognize stewardship programs.

McCaskill’s second amendment to the bill had something to do with the revised explosive exemption language in the bill. Again, she thought [42:38] that either the original language or the revised language (it is not clear) went too far in bending to the desires of the explosives industry.

McCaskill did not have language ready to put whistleblower language back in the bill. As I noted above she vowed to object to the bill if it came to the floor for consideration without the language. We may see the material added to the bill between the time the report is published and the time that it comes to the floor for a vote.

Other Bills of Interest

There were a total of about 40 bills considered in the hearing this week. Most of them were considered en bloc near the end of the hearing, being passed with a single voice vote. These included:

S 278, the Support for Rapid Innovation Act of 2017 – Substitute language;
S 3085, the Federal Acquisition Supply Chain Security Act of 2018 – Substitute language and additional amendment; and
S 3309, the DHS Cyber Incident Response Teams Act of 2018 – Substitute language and additional amendment;


Johnson made a point early in the hearing (in relation to a bill that did not end up being considered) about how the Committee works together in a ‘non-partisan’ manner. This is certainly the normal course of events in the Committee. This makes S 3405 very much an oddity in the process as it was written without the input of the Democrats on the Committee (or the Minority Staff). McCaskill’s displeasure with the process was evident in this week’s hearing, but she will go along with Johnson; as long as her party’s minimum requirements are met (whistleblower language). It is not clear that other Democrats in the Senate (not on the Committee; those McCaskill will almost certainly keep in line) will play along.

One Democrat that will have to be watched with respect to this bill is Sen. Markey (D,MA). With his recent attempts to frame himself as a cybersecurity expert, he might be expected to object to the removal of the cybersecurity risk-based performance standards from the CFATS program. Another senator with an interest in cybersecurity that also might object is Sen. Blumenthal (D,CT). That is, of course, if those provisions remain in the bill as amended.

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