This vote was on an amendment that would have ensured a cybersecurity bill could not be used as justification for the U.S. government to restrict internet access or for an employer to ask job applicants to disclose their passwords for Facebook and other social media sites.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) offered the amendment during consideration of a controversial bill allowing private companies and the federal government to share cybersecurity-related intelligence information. Rep. Perlmutter said his amendment would make clear that the bill was not intended to open the door to China-style “command and control” regulation of the internet by the U.S. government.
Rep. Perlmutter also cited recent reports that employers had asked job applicants for social media passwords. The passwords were used to access the job applicants’ accounts as part of a vetting process for potential hires. Rep. Perlmutter called this practice “alarming” and a violation of privacy, and said his amendment would make clear that the cybersecurity bill was not an endorsement of this practice, either.
“There are plenty of vehicles by which to check out somebody's employment references, but we're not going to allow lie detectors, and we should not allow that the Facebook passwords be given up as a condition of employment,” Rep. Perlmutter said.
Opponents of the amendment argued that it was a “red herring” meant to stall a bill that he said would provide important protections for U.S. businesses.
“There are people out there today who are literally robbing the future of America for our jobs, our prosperity, and our economic prowess in the world, and they're doing it by design,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) said. “We can talk about [an amendment] that does absolutely nothing to protect someone's private password at home, or we can get about the business of trying to give the private sector just a little bit of information to protect people's private information in the comfort of their homes, so that we can protect this nation from a catastrophic attack.”
Rep. Perlmutter offered his amendment as a “motion to recommit with instructions.” A motion to recommit is the minority's opportunity to torpedo or significantly change a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure. If passed, Republican leaders would have been forced to add the amendment before allowing a final vote to pass the bill.
Rep. Perlmutter’s motion was defeated by a vote of 183-233. Voting “yea” were 182 Democrats and 1 Republican. Voting “nay” were 233 Republicans. As a result, the House proceeded to a vote on passage of legislation allowing private companies and the federal government to share cybersecurity-related intelligence information.