Taking a strong stance to protect election integrity
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By now, there is no disputing that Russia launched a targeted campaign on orders of Vladimir Putin to interfere in our most recent national elections. Our intelligence community agrees that Russia hacked political campaign committees and leaked stolen documents, used a sophisticated social media network of bots to spread misinformation and influence voters, and targeted dozens of state election systems for sensitive voter data, including in Illinois and Florida.

This meddling is nothing short of a grievous attack aimed at the very foundation of our democratic system. As with any other attack by a hostile foreign government, Russia’s actions demand a serious response to hold our attackers accountable. The United States must take strong, corrective measures to protect the integrity of our elections and also deter any future attempts to interfere in our electoral process.

This is a bipartisan concern, and indeed, a concern for all Americans. That is why we partnered together to introduce the House companion to a bill by Sens. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOvernight Defense: Pentagon asked to prep housing for up to 20K migrant children | Senators move to block F-35 transfer to Turkey | Trump Mar-a-Lago trips cost Coast Guard M Senate spending bill would require disclosure of Trump travel ban details Senate moves to block F-35 transfer to Turkey MORE (D-Md.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPolitical figures pay tribute to Charles Krauthammer Senate moving ahead with border bill, despite Trump Hillicon Valley: New FTC chief eyes shake up of tech regulation | Lawmakers target Google, Huawei partnership | Microsoft employees voice anger over ICE contract MORE (R-Fla.), the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act – H.R. 4884.

Our legislation makes clear to Russia and other countries that there will be severe repercussions for any future interference in our democratic process. The bill identifies which actions – from online misinformation to hacking and cyberattacks - will result in immediate retaliation by the United States. It then requires the Director of National Intelligence to issue a report within one month of every federal election on whether foreign efforts at interference were present. It also requires the president to submit to Congress a strategy to deter interference in our elections by other foreign governments of serious concern, like China, Iran and North Korea.

Given Russia’s past actions, if the Director of National Intelligence determines Moscow has again interfered, harsh sanctions on Russian finance, energy, defense, mining and other industries would automatically be imposed within 10 days.

This legislation is more important now than ever, given the administration’s continued reticence to take action against Russia. Last July, the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed, and the president signed into law, the bipartisan Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to require the administration to apply sanctions against Russia for its illicit actions. 

Alarmingly, in the months since signing the bill, the administration has shown its unwillingness to punish the country and regime responsible for these attacks on our very foundation. Just last week the president willfully ignored the will of Congress, refusing to impose sanctions under the CAATSA authorities.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN analyst Kirsten Powers: Melania's jacket should read 'Let them eat cake' CNN's Cuomo confronts Lewandowski over 'womp womp' remark Sessions says FBI agent Peter Strzok no longer has his security clearance MORE’s inaction on Russian interference has a damaging effect on our national security, as well as for other nations against whom Russia is deploying similar tactics. These nations are looking to the United States for strong leadership. They are looking for us to protect the ideals and values of freedom and democracy. That is why it is imperative that America take a relentless pursuit of justice and accountability against the Putin regime for its attempts to compromise our democratic institutions.

Despite the administration’s efforts to obfuscate our understanding of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections and delay the consequences for its aggression, members of Congress, from both parties, have demonstrated the willingness to step forward and hold Putin to account.

With Americans heading to the polls in just a few short months, the clock is ticking. Unless we take clear action now, there is no doubt our next elections remain equally vulnerable to Russian meddling.

We urge our colleagues to join us in this effort, and we urge the administration to cease ignoring the intent of Congress and the will of the American people. Russia is not an ally, and it is time the United States started treating it accordingly.

Schneider represents Illinois’s 10th District and is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Ros-Lehtinen represents Florida’s 27th District and is chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa.