Top Republican senators voiced optimism about writing a federal privacy bill following the first meeting of a bipartisan group of lawmakers working on the issue, but declined to characterize the negotiations.
“Nothing has been decided today about some next step,” one of the participants, Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran, said. “Today’s meeting keeps me in that category of being an optimist that that path can be found.”
Moran, along with Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), met April 3 to discuss potential legislation amid rising concerns about privacy and security.
“It’s a very complex issue, but we’re working and we get along,” Wicker said. “I’m always an optimistic person. There’s a solution out there.”
Lawmakers see a bill as a possible area for compromise in a gridlocked Congress. But Democrats and Republicans remain apart on some issues, including overriding state privacy laws such as California’s strict new rules that take effect Jan. 1, 2020.
Tech companies have pushed lawmakers to pass a federal privacy bill to pre-empt a growing number of state privacy laws, such as California’s. Businesses and industry groups say a patchwork of state privacy laws is unworkable.
Privacy advocates and some Democratic lawmakers, however, don’t want to expressly pre-empt state privacy laws, unless strong consumer privacy protections and an enforcement role for the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general are part of the package.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce panel, said she was “not going to participate in something where they are going to erode strong privacy laws.” Cantwell said she wasn’t invited to the April 3 meeting.
Wicker said he “very much” needs Cantwell on the legislation.