Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked an attempt by Democrats to pass legislation aimed at bolstering the country's election infrastructure despite a stalemate in the chamber on the issue.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), the top Democrat on the Rules Committee, tried to call up the Election Security Act, which would require backup paper ballots and provide election security grants to states, before it was blocked.
"We know there's a continued threat against our democracy. What we need to do now is address these facts with a common purpose, to protect our democracy, to make sure that our election systems are resilient against future attacks," Klobuchar said from the Senate floor.
Under the Senate's rules, any one senator can try to pass a bill or resolution by unanimous consent, but any one senator can also block that request.
Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordGOP senator: Buying Treasury bonds 'foolish' amid standoff over debt ceiling, taxes Florida senator seeks probe of Ben & Jerry's halting sales in Israeli settlements Senate Democrats try to defuse GOP budget drama MORE (R-Okla.) objected, arguing that he and Klobuchar were trying to draft separate legislation together and that he didn't want to see election security become a partisan issue.
"I find myself at odds today with a partner in this … we have worked together in a very nonpartisan way to be able to resolve this issue. I think we still can resolve this and we can actually get a result, but a partisan proposal will not get us an end results where both parties come together and get to resolve this," Lankford said from the Senate floor.
Lankford and Klobuchar have partnered on election security bills, including the Secure Elections Act, during the previous Congress. The two senators are expected to reintroduce the bill. Lankford told The Hill last week that he was waiting for Klobuchar to sign off on changes to the legislation.
In addition to providing $1 billion in funding for states to bolster their cybersecurity and audits, the bill Klobuchar tried to pass on Tuesday would also require President TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE to release a strategy on how to protect U.S. institutions from cyberattacks.
Lankford argued that while he and Klobuchar agreed about the need for backup paper ballots, he said that funding from the federal government wouldn't get it implemented in every state prior to the presidential election.
"No matter how much money we threw at the states right now, they could not make that so by the 2020 presidential election. It's not possible to be able to get there," he said.
The back-and-forth on the floor comes as election security legislation has hit a wall in the GOP-controlled Senate.
House Democrats passed a sweeping election and ethics reform bill earlier this year and are preparing a second wave of legislation aimed at responding to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE's report on Russia's election meddling in 2016.
But Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP hopes spending traps derail Biden agenda A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns MORE (Mo.), the chairman of the Rules Committee and a member of GOP leadership, has indicated that he won't bring up election security legislation in his committee, the Senate panel with primary jurisdiction on the issue.
Democrats have seized on Mueller's findings, as well as Trump's comments earlier this month where he suggested he was open to taking information on an opponent from a foreign government, as evidence that Congress needs to pass additional legislation.
Democrats worry that Trump's remarks, in particular, could be seen by foreign governments as an invitation to meddle in the 2020 presidential election.
"There is a presidential election before us and if a few counties in one swing state or an entire state get hacked into there's no backup paper ballots and we can't figure out what happened, the entire election will be called into question," Klobuchar said Tuesday.