House GOP refuses to boost funding for election security

House GOP refuses to boost funding for election security
© Greg Nash

House Republicans are refusing to provide additional funding for state election security grants in a spending bill despite the move upsetting Democrats pointing at Russia's election interference.

Democrats want to continue funding the grants program to help states boost security for their voting systems, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Republicans, however, argue that the program, which is overseen by the federal Election Assistance Commission, is fully funded and does not need the additional allocations.

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The floor debate on Wednesday came shortly after President TrumpDonald John TrumpREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Klobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Israel boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate MORE refused to denounce Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, sparking backlash from both sides of the aisle. The president later sought to clarify his support of American intelligence agencies findings of Russian interference.

Democrats accused Republicans of enabling Trump's rhetoric and not standing up to the president on the Russian interference issue. 

“The American people should be very worried about the commitment of this president and his Republican allies in Congress to securing our elections,” Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineThe Year Ahead: Tech braces for new scrutiny from Washington Democrats signal growing interest in examining ties between NRA, Russia House Dems talking more about impeaching Trump MORE (D-R.I.) said. “This is a party that has worked with this administration to undermine and minimize the investigation surrounding Russian interference in our presidential election.”

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsGOP-controlled Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi vote House GOP blocks lawmakers from forcing Yemen war votes for rest of year Advocates see state legislatures as next frontier for pot legalization MORE (R-Texas) fired back by calling Democratic opposition a “shrewd political shenanigan that has no merit to it,” the Post reported.

States still have money left over from the $380 million in appropriations given to the election assistance grants earlier this year, Sessions said.

Sessions also argued that the programs do not need additional funding ahead of the November midterms, because Congress has spent $3.5 billion on the grants over the years.

That number may increase depending on the outcome of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Sessions added.

“Maybe the special counsel will announce something in two weeks: ‘Oh, here’s what the Russian indictments really are.’ If we learn something, authorizing committees will come right back to it and we’ll go to it,” Sessions said. “But there is no new data or information, it’s at the end of $3.5 billion dollars, and there are no requests.”

Republicans also turned down a Democratic request to add $380 million the 2019 spending bill, the Post reported.

“History is going to look back on the inaction of this Congress with great shame,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said.

Republicans, however, held firm.

“There is no crisis. There are funds available,” Rep. Dan NewhouseDaniel (Dan) Milton NewhouseTrump leaves GOP in turmoil with shutdown looming Washington governor announces killer whale recovery plan GOP struggles to find right Republican for Rules MORE (R-Wash.) said.