Democratic presidential candidates are seizing on election security to attack Republicans for not doing enough to safeguard the country against foreign interference.
The attacks were also part of this week’s Democratic debates, when a few candidates cited the threat posed by Russia, including their interference in the 2016 election as spelled out in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have ‘no choice’ but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE‘s report released earlier this year.
The calls for action comes as Mueller prepares to testify before Congress next month and as Democrats’ push for enhanced election security has stalled because of Republican opposition.
Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean Klobuchar2020 Democrats visit Florida migrant children’s shelter following debate Democratic senators urge Ross to print 2020 census materials without citizenship question The Hill’s Campaign Report: Debate puts Biden on the defensive MORE (D-Minn.), at the Democratic debate on Wednesday, blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBorder funding bill highlights the problem of ‘the Senate keyhole’ Luis Alvarez, 9/11 first responder who testified alongside Jon Stewart, dies Overnight Defense: Senate rejects effort to restrict Trump on Iran | Democrats at debate vow to shore up NATO | Senate confirms chief of Space Command MORE (R-Ky.) for preventing passage of election security legislation.
“We let the Republicans run our elections, and if we do not do something about Russian interference in the election, and we let Mitch McConnell stop all the back-up paper ballots, then we are not going to get to do what we want to do,” Klobuchar said.
McConnell has consistently refused to allow Senate floor votes on a number of election security bills in recent weeks, citing concerns that these bills would federalize elections and take oversight away from states.
Earlier this week, Klobuchar attempted to force a vote to allow the Senate to consider her Election Security Act, but was blocked by Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordHouse passes sweeping Democrat-backed election security bill Hillicon Valley: White House to host social media summit amid Trump attacks | Pelosi says Congress to get election security briefing in July | Senate GOP blocks election security bill | Pro-Trump forum ‘quarantined’ by Reddit | Democrats press Zuckerberg Pelosi: Congress will receive election security briefing in July MORE (R-Okla.).
Her legislation would require back-up paper ballots and provide $1 billion in election security grants for states to improve election security issues.
Lankford called Klobuchar’s proposal a “partisan bill,” while noting he’s still hoping to work with her on re-introducing the Secure Elections Act, a bill that would strengthen cybersecurity information sharing and require all election jurisdictions to perform post-election audits to verify Election Day results.
The Oklahoma senator added that he has not talked to McConnell about potentially supporting passage of this bill.
On Thursday night’s debate, technology entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangOvernight Defense: Senate rejects effort to restrict Trump on Iran | Democrats at debate vow to shore up NATO | Senate confirms chief of Space Command #LetYangSpeak trends on Twitter after Yang accuses NBC of cutting his mic in debate On The Money: Anticipation builds for Trump, Xi sitdown | Pressure on Trump for trade breakthrough | Democrats at debate rip Trump approach to China MORE echoed Klobuchar’s concerns about foreign interference in elections, naming Russia as the greatest geopolitical threat to the United States, while noting the country “has been hacking our democracy successfully.”
“They’ve been laughing their asses off about it for years,” Yang added. “We should focus on that before we start worrying about other threats.”
Similarly, Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetOvernight Defense: Senate rejects effort to restrict Trump on Iran | Democrats at debate vow to shore up NATO | Senate confirms chief of Space Command On The Money: Anticipation builds for Trump, Xi sitdown | Pressure on Trump for trade breakthrough | Democrats at debate rip Trump approach to China The Hill’s Campaign Report: Debate puts Biden on the defensive MORE (D-Colo.) said during the debate that Russia poses a greater threat to the U.S. than China “because of what they’ve done with our election.”
President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats and Trump are all in on immigration for the 2020 election Trump to allow US companies to sell products to Huawei Trump says he brought up Khashoggi murder with Saudi crown prince MORE has resisted stronger action on election security, while accusing Democrats of politicizing the Mueller report in order to de-legitimize his win in the 2016 elections.
On Friday, Trump stirred some controversy after being asked by a journalist whether he would address Russia’s interference in 2016 during a sit-down with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinAnderson Cooper knocks Trump over Putin, Saudi crown prince comments Trump defends election meddling remarks to Putin Elton John calls out Vladimir Putin for censorship of biopic MORE at the Group of 20 summit in Japan.
Trump turned to Putin and said “don’t meddle in the election please” in what appeared to be a light-hearted manner.
Other 2020 candidates have also vowed to continue calling for tougher election security legislation.
Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker admonishes Biden for language used defending a ‘kid wearing a hoodie’ Florida gov signs law requiring felons to pay off fines before they can vote Biden doubles down on civil rights record after Harris rebuke MORE (D-N.J.) told reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday that he lamented not having been able to talk about election security during his debate because he was vying for attention with 10 other Democrats on stage.
Booker added that “there will be a lot more opportunities to speak about issues that matter” during future debates.
Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDemocrats and Trump are all in on immigration for the 2020 election The Memo: Debates reshape Democratic race DeVos rolls back Obama-era policy that aimed to curb abuse from for-profit colleges MORE (D-Mass.) placed a spotlight on election security by releasing a plan on how she will address the topic if elected president. The proposal came the day before she appeared on the debate stage on Wednesday.
Warren wrote that U.S. elections are currently “less secure than your Amazon account,” and vowed to ensure the federal government paid for the replacement of every voting machine in the nation with new machines that allow for hand-marked, voter-verified paper ballots.
The Democratic candidates’ concern over election security comes as Mueller prepares to publicly testify before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees on July 17 in back-to-back appearances.
Mueller’s report concluded that Russia conducted a disinformation campaign on social media platforms, and conducted cyber attacks against U.S. election officials and against the Democratic Party.
This week, the House passed the Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act by a party-line vote. House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBorder funding bill highlights the problem of ‘the Senate keyhole’ Hillicon Valley: Harris spikes in Google searches after debate clash with Biden | Second US city blocks facial recognition | Apple said to be moving Mac Pro production from US to China | Bipartisan Senate bill takes aim at ‘deepfake’ videos Senators unveil bipartisan bill to target ‘deepfake’ video threat MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerLuis Alvarez, 9/11 first responder who testified alongside Jon Stewart, dies Trump to allow US companies to sell products to Huawei House holds moment of silence for drowned migrant father and daughter MORE (D-N.Y.) then held a press conference to put pressure on McConnell to allow a vote on the legislation in the upper chamber.
Pelosi also announced that Congress will receive a briefing on election security on July 10, but did not offer further details.
On Friday, seven freshman House Democrats announced the creation of “Task Force Sentry,” with the lawmakers teaming up to protect elections from interference.
Besides Klobuchar, other Senate Democrats are also attempting to force votes on election security bills.
Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDemocratic senators urge Ross to print 2020 census materials without citizenship question House passes sweeping Democrat-backed election security bill Senate Democrats wish talk on reparations would go away MORE (D-Va.) tried to pass a bill that would require campaigns to report contacts with foreign nationals looking to interfere in elections, but it was blocked by Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnHouse passes sweeping Democrat-backed election security bill Pelosi: Congress will receive election security briefing in July Horse abuse for ribbons and prizes has to stop MORE (R-Tenn.) last week.
Additional election security funding also seems to be a sticking point for Republicans.
This week, the House approved the fiscal year 2020 Financial Services and General Government funding bill with a provision granting the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) $600 million that would be handed over to states to shore up their voting infrastructure.
The bill comes after Congress appropriated $380 million to the EAC last year for the same purpose.
However, this year’s bill has little chance of being approved by the Senate. Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over this funding bill, told reporters this week that he is “very, very skeptical about the wisdom of including” the $600 million in funding to states.
“I admire their zeal, but I’m not certain about their wisdom,” Kennedy said of House efforts to pass election security funding.