Congress Set to Debate Tech Issues

Analysts expect a divided Congress to come together to tackle targeted cybersecurity, skilled immigration and other tech-related bills this year.

Though the new Congress comes in with plans to focus on the budget and social issues, analysts expect that legislators will also take on key technology concerns, albeit with scaled-back legislation.

The session of Congress that started this month finds Democrats in control of the Senate and Republicans holding a majority in the House of Representatives -- a situation that is expected to make for a contentious period leading up to next year's elections. But analysts say that some tech topics haven't faced partisan debate in recent years and thus agreements could be reached on select pieces of legislation.

Congress should have a window of six to eight months to tackle some key tech issues before lawmakers' attention turns to the 2012 election cycle, said Dean Garfield, president and CEO of the Washington-based Information Technology Industry Council, a technology trade group.

"I think there's a real opportunity to get some meaningful [technology] legislation passed," he said, though he acknowledged that the focus will likely be on bills targeting narrow concerns rather than wide-ranging issues. "I think the chance of having a comprehensive anything in 2011 with this Congress is slim to none," he added.

Targeted, scaled-back tech-focused bills could have "the dual benefit of being nonpartisan and fitting within the first priority of Democrats, Republicans, House and Senate and the [Obama] administration, which is get the economy back on track and create jobs," Garfield said.

For example, while comprehensive cybersecurity legislation is unlikely to pass through Congress, smaller pieces, such as a scaled-down data-breach notification bill or funding for cybersecurity research, have a chance at becoming law in this session, said Charlie Greenwald, vice president of communications at TechAmerica, a Washington-based technology trade group.

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