Week ahead: Senators make new push to improve election cybersecurity

Week ahead: Senators make new push to improve election cybersecurity
© Greg Nash

The coming week could bring movement on legislation aimed at securing U.S. voting infrastructure from cyber threats.

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisTrump: ‘Dems have a death wish’ Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE MORE (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that she and Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordGOP seeks separation from Trump on Russia Hillicon Valley: EU hits Google with record B fine | Trump tries to clarify Russia remarks | Sinclair changing deal to win over FCC | Election security bill gets traction | Robocall firm exposed voter data Election security bill picks up new support in Senate MORE (R-Okla.) are planning to introduce an amendment to a bill reauthorizing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that would help states modernize their election systems.

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Harris and Lankford are both sponsors of the Secure Elections Act, a bill they introduced in December that would set up a grant program for states to replace outdated paperless voting machines and take other steps to bolster cybersecurity.

Harris said at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee meeting that the amendment will implement "bipartisan election security measures to modernize election cybersecurity across America and protect against foreign interference on future elections."

The lawmakers are hoping to attach the amendment to legislation that would reauthorize Homeland Security for the first time since it was created in the early 2000s. In July, the House passed its version of the bill, which would implement a number of reforms to Homeland Security's operations.

Leaders of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee are currently working on the upper chamber's version of the bill. The panel is expected to consider the legislation as soon as the coming week.

The left-leaning Center for American Progress on Thursday issued a memo to reporters urging Congress to pass election security funding as part of the omnibus appropriations bill lawmakers will take up later this month ahead of a March 23 deadline.

Meanwhile, expect more speculation over where special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation into Russia's election interference is going next.

NBC News reported Thursday that the special counsel is preparing charges against the Russians suspected of being behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and the email account of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin Anti-Trump protests outside White House continue into fifth night Opera singers perform outside White House during fourth day of protests MORE campaign chairman John Podesta.

Mueller's investigation has picked up steam in recent weeks with his indictment of 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian groups on charges relating to election meddling through social media and other tactics. Mueller also cut a recent plea deal with former Trump campaign aide Richard Gates.

Gates's cooperation in the probe is expected to put pressure on former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortFailings by WhatsApp, Signal and others highlight the need to take back our privacy The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump eyes second Putin summit MORE.

The Senate Judiciary Committee may also soon release a tranche of transcripts related to the panel's interviews with witnesses of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting during which Manafort, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerGeorge Will charges that Trump colluded with Putin DNC claims Secret Service blocked attempt to deliver lawsuit against Kushner On The Money: US files complaints at WTO | House leaders get deal to boost biz investment | Mnuchin says US will consider Iran sanctions waivers | FCC deals blow to Sinclair-Tribune merger MORE, and Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpFox News bigger than ever two years after Roger Ailes Kimberly Guilfoyle leaving Fox News to campaign with Donald Trump Jr.: report George Will charges that Trump colluded with Putin MORE met with a Russian lawyer after being offered damaging information on Clinton.

The comings days are also poised to offer a flurry of cyber-related activity in the upper chamber.

Lawmakers could soon vote on the nomination of Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, President TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE's choice to replace Adm. Michael Rogers at the helm the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command. Nakasone appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his confirmation hearing on Thursday, during which he acknowledged that the U.S. has fallen short on deterring adversaries in cyberspace.

It is unclear when the Senate panel plans to vote on his nomination.

On Tuesday, the Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on worldwide threats featuring testimony from Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsHillicon Valley: Trump's Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T's latest 5G plans Questions mount over Trump-Putin discussions Overnight Defense: White House 'not considering' Ukraine referendum | Pompeo hopeful on plans for Putin visit | Measure to block ZTE deal dropped from defense bill MORE and Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Meanwhile, the House Homeland Security Committee will meet Wednesday to focus on the department's effort to build its cybersecurity workforce. The hearing will specifically focus on a recent Government Accountability Office report that identified an "urgent" need for Homeland Security to better identify gaps in its cyber workforce.

And expect more scrutiny from lawmakers over the massive data breach at Equifax last year. The credit reporting firm on Thursday raised the number of breach victims by 2.4 million.

 

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