Pelosi: Congress will receive election security briefing in July

Aaron Schwartz

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Wednesday that Congress will receive an election security briefing from administration officials next month, as Democrats put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to allow votes on election security bills.

“Next month we will take further steps to harden our democratic institutions against attacks, and on July 10 we will receive the all-member election security briefing we requested from the administration so we can continue to protect the American people,” Pelosi said during a press conference.

The Democratic leader announced the date after McConnell told reporters earlier this month that a briefing would take place, while not giving any more details.

Pelosi was joined at the press conference Wednesday by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other congressional Democrats to promote passage of the Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act, which the House is set to vote on this week.{mosads}

Schumer also criticized McConnell for “offering no good excuse for why the Senate can’t have a debate on this bill and any of the others,” adding that “we cannot let Leader McConnell bury this another election security bill in his legislative graveyard.”

The SAFE Act, which Democrats have fast-tracked to the House floor after the House Administration Committee approved it last week in a party-line vote, would authorize $600 million for states to bolster election security, along with give states $175 million biannually to help sustain election infrastructure. The legislation would also establish cybersecurity safeguards for voting machines to help prevent foreign interference.

Schumer’s comments on Wednesday came a week after he vowed at a separate press conference to continue putting pressure on McConnell to either allow votes on various Democrat-backed election security bills, or to block them on the floor.

McConnell has so far refused to allow votes on any election security bills, citing concerns that the measures could lead to states seeing their authority over elections being eroded.

When asked for a comment on the SAFE Act, a spokesperson for McConnell pointed The Hill to remarks made by the GOP leader on the Senate floor last month, during which he said that election security “requires serious work.”

McConnell added that Congress has already appropriated millions to states to shore up election systems, and the 2018 midterm elections saw successful efforts by state and local election officials to defend against attack.

A few Senate Democrats have tried to force McConnell to allow votes on their bills. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) attempted to pass a bill by unanimous consent last week that would require campaigns to report contacts with foreign nationals seeking to interfere in elections, but was blocked by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

Earlier this week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) attempted to force a vote to allow the Senate to consider her Election Security Act, but was blocked by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.). That legislation would require backup paper ballots, and provide $1 billion in election security grants for states to improve election security issues.

The SAFE Act is the second major piece of election security legislation to be passed by the House this year, following the passage of H.R. 1, a sweeping legislative package that also includes election reform measures. McConnell has so far refused to allow a vote on the bill, labeling it the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.) was among the Democrats on Wednesday to strongly criticize McConnell’s approach to election security, telling reporters that the Senate leader has “opposed every single election reform since the day when the earth cooled.”

Wyden also said that congressional Democrats will spend the upcoming July 4th recess “fanning out all across the country” to spread the word on election security vulnerabilities, with both Wyden and Pelosi comparing this effort to the ride by Paul Revere during the American Revolution to spread word that the British troops were coming.

“We’re going to have a simple message: pass legislation with provisions of the SAFE Act, and tell Mitch McConnell that the future of our democracy is too important for him to stand in its way,” Wyden said.

Pelosi added in reference to Revere that “the fate of the nation was riding that night, well the fate of the nation is riding on us passing this legislation to protect our system.”

Tags Amy Klobuchar Charles Schumer James Lankford Mark Warner Marsha Blackburn Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Ron Wyden
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