WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senior Obama administration officials and a bipartisan group of U.S. senators agreed on Wednesday to push for cybersecurity legislation as quickly as possible, the White House said on Thursday.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the officials went to Capitol Hill "to discuss the growing cybersecurity threats to our nation and the need for prompt legislative action to ensure the U.S. government has the authorities it needs to keep the nation safe."
U.S. lawmakers have been at odds about the best way to protect critical facilities like power and water utilities from cyber intrusions that have frozen websites and resulted in breaches and data theft from companies including Google, Lockheed Martin and Citigroup.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid's office is working to draft a comprehensive bill aimed at protecting company and government networks along the lines of a cyber strategy the White House published in May.
That would include new rules to force companies to notify consumers when breaches put personal data at risk and authorize the Department of Homeland Security to ensure minimum standards are met in monitoring for possible attacks.
But a Republican task force in the House of Representatives said earlier this month that Congress should give companies incentives to boost cyber defenses and not rush to impose new regulations except in sensitive sectors like nuclear power, electricity and water treatment plants.
In the Wednesday briefing, White House and U.S. agency officials told 12 senators including Reid, Republican Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Independent Joe Lieberman that a comprehensive approach would balance the burden of defending computing networks between the government and private sector.
"From our point of view it was an extremely useful and constructive discussion, ending with agreement that all involved need to work together to pass a cybersecurity bill as quickly as possible," Hayden said.
"The administration looks forward to continuing work with Congress to urge all involved to quickly enact these ideas into law in a bipartisan manner.
(Reporting by Laura MacInnis; editing by Todd Eastham)