Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin's signature issue is cybersecurity. And after sounding the alarm for years about vulnerabilities in our power grid and other critical infrastructure, it looked like he would finally be able to claim a hand, this year, in cybersecurity legislation of some significance.
Now, the prospects are looking dimmer.
The House GOP leadership has gutted a bill he'd worked on with Congressman Dan Lungren, a California Republican, that would have imposed some requirements on utilities to harden themselves against cyber attacks by terrorists or other intruders.
That bill, to be sure, was not as strong as Langevin might have liked - and not as strong as a bill circulating in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But it was significant nonethless. And because it came in the realm of national security - where Democrats and Republicans can occassionally come together, even in an election year - there was real hope for passage.
Lungren and Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, a Long Island Republican, both seemed unhappy in a hearing yesterday with the GOP leadership's decision, which was in line with concerns in some corners of the GOP that the bill as written would have imposed too-heavy regulations on business.
Langevin released a strongly worded statement saying he was "deeply discouraged" by the turn of events. "Unfortunately," he continued, "despite the best intentions of the many members on the other side of the aisle
with whom I have worked on this issue, House Republican leadership appears
determined to approach this vital national security challenge like every other
issue: in an extremely partisan way that impedes progress, in this case siding
with those in critical industries who are neglecting public safety."
Langevin did hold out hope for stronger infrastructure requirements: won in conference committee with the Senate, perhaps, assuming the Senate bill passes as written.
But it's not looking good.