Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills
© Aaron Schwartz

Democrats are trying to increase pressure on Majority Leader Mitch Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers run into major speed bumps on spending bills Budowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet MORE (R-Ky.) to move election security bills, as the issue has remained at a stalemate in the Senate for months.  

Senate Democrats dedicated their weekly press conference to talking up their new strategy to try to force the GOP leader's hand, including plans to force votes either as part of a mammoth defense bill or as stand-alone legislation on the Senate floor. 

"Leader McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate have a simple choice. They can continue to ignore the problem, do nothing … while our democracy is under threat or they can join us and get serious about securing our elections. We will keep pushing Leader McConnell to act and secure elections," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (D-N.Y.) said.

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Schumer was flanked by Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate Democrats introduce legislation to limit foreign interference in elections Navy acknowledges footage of 'unidentified' flying objects California Law to rebuild middle class shows need for congressional action MORE (D-Va.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi Democratic senators quietly hope Biden wins over rivals Grassley: Kavanaugh classmate didn't contact Senate panel MORE (D-Calif.), the top Democrats on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, respectively, as well as Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity MORE (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who have worked on election security legislation.

The press conference was the second Schumer held on Tuesday to press the need for legislation. He also talked to reporters about next steps for his caucus earlier Tuesday morning.

The Senate Democratic strategy includes three prongs: Trying to get stand alone votes on the Senate floor, including election security bills in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and boosting election security funding as part of budget and appropriations talks.

"We're elevating it as you can see now," Schumer told reporters during the weekly leadership press conference." We're getting hearings. We're moving forward."

Blumenthal told reporters that he would try to get consent to add his Duty to Report Act to the NDAA, which would require campaigns alert the Federal Election Commission and the FBI if a foreign national tried to make an illegal contribution to a campaign.

"The reason we introduced this legislation … was the findings that were emerging from the Mueller investigation about the Trump campaign happily accepting and welcoming this kind of illegal information," Blumenthal said.

Klobuchar also wants to attach the Election Security Act of 2019 to the NDAA as an amendment. But the effort faces an uphill climb amid pushback from the White House, as well as a pledge from GOP leadership that they will not move election security legislation.

"It's very straightforward. It says back up paper ballots in every single state," Klobuchar told reporters. "If we have a close election in the general election in a presidential race and one state is out withstanding and their ballot box, their elections get hacked into we will have absolutely no back ups."

The push to attach election security legislation to the defense bill comes after two aides told The Hill on Friday that Klobuchar and Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordDemocrats press for action on election security GOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Manufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank MORE (R-Okla.) were still negotiating on a new version of the Secure Elections Act. Lankford has been in talks with the White House about the bill after opposition from the administration and GOP senators sunk the legislation during the previous Congress.

Klobuchar has also introduced legislation, known as the Honest Ads Act, that would require public disclosure of who is paying for internet and social media campaign ads, making them similar to ads for radio, television and print.

Klobuchar said on Tuesday that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Overnight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort GOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi MORE (R-S.C.) has agreed to hold a hearing on the legislation. A spokesperson for Graham didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The renewed effort by Senate Democrats to pass election security legislation comes after special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation MORE's report detailing Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

Trump also suggested during an ABC News interview last week that he was open to accepting information from a foreign government about his political opponents, sparking fears from Democrats that he was inviting further interference.

House Democrats passed a sweeping election and ethics reform bill earlier this year and are preparing to pass a new package of bills in an attempt to increase pressure on Senate Republicans to act.

But the legislation is likely to hit a wall in the GOP-controlled Senate. Though some GOP senators, including Graham and Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrLawmakers applaud Trump's ban on flavored e-cigarettes Trump to hold campaign rally in North Carolina day before special House election Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post MORE (R-N.C.), back addition legislation, it's been met with a cold reception from leadership. Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan The Hill's Morning Report - Can Trump save GOP in North Carolina special election? MORE (R-Mo.) says his panel will not mark up legislation.

Warner tried to pass legislation last week that would require campaigns to report contacts from foreign nationals to the FBI but was blocked by Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTaylor Swift 'obsessed' with politics, says she's cautious about celebrity support backfiring for Democrats The evolution of Taylor Swift's political activism Kellyanne Conway responds to Taylor Swift criticism by invoking pop star's lyrics MORE (R-Tenn.). Trump later praised Blackburn in a tweet for "fighting obstructionist Democrats led by Cryin' Chuck Schumer.”

McConnell didn't rule out taking up legislation during a Fox News interview last week, but warned that he won't support legislation that took away control of elections from state and local governments.

“I’m open to considering legislation, but it has to be directed in a way that doesn’t undermine state and local control of elections. The Democrats … would like to nationalize everything. They want the federal government to take over broad swaths of the election process because they think that would somehow benefit them,” McConnell said.