House

House panel pushes forward election security legislation

The House Administration Committee voted 6-1 on Tuesday to push forward legislation intended to limit foreign interference in elections, moving the bill to the House floor for a vote against strong Republican objections.

The panel marked up and approved the SHIELD Act, which takes aim at foreign election interference by requiring U.S. campaigns to report "illicit offers" of election assistance from foreign governments or individuals to both the FBI and the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

The legislation also takes steps to ensure that political advertisements on social media are subject to the same stricter rules as ads on television or radio.

The bill classifies the "offering of non-public campaign material to foreign governments and those linked with foreign governments and their agents as an illegal solicitation of support," while also closing gaps that allow foreign investment in aspects of U.S. elections. 

The SHIELD Act marks the latest effort by House Democrats to push through legislation designed to increase election security, and follows two other bills that have been stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the SHIELD Act's primary sponsor, said, "We should all be able to agree that we need to protect our democracy, and with a sense of urgency. This is not a partisan opinion. Nothing less than our national security is at stake."

The SHIELD Act is expected to move quickly to the House floor for a vote, with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) noting in a "letter to colleagues" last week that the chamber would likely vote on the bill during the week of Oct. 21.

Rep. Rodney Davis (Ill.), the top Republican on the committee, strongly pushed back against the bill, introducing 10 amendments, almost all of which were voted down by the majority of Democrats on the committee. Davis noted he was "trying to prove a point of how bad your bill is" to the Democrats on the committee.

Davis criticized the "partisanship" involved in putting the SHIELD Act together, adding that there are "legitimate election security concerns" that the bill is meant to address and questioning why Lofgren and other committee Democrats did not work to find a "bipartisan solution to our collective concerns."

"Once again, the majority has chosen to continue this pattern we've seen all Congress where they rush legislation, without any hearings or public discussion of the issues, and insert poison pills into a bill that they know we will not support, all in an effort to prop up their unfounded impeachment efforts against the president," Davis said.

Davis noted that he could not support the bill in its entirety, even as he was in favor of some aspects, due to concerns that it would violate First Amendment rights.

"I believe the SHIELD Act will have many unintended, but severe consequences on the American people and a chilling effect on free speech, a fundamental right we in Congress have a responsibility to defend," Davis said.

Davis vowed to bring up his concerns with the SHIELD Act on the House floor when it is brought up for a vote, noting his belief that it is "unfixable in its current form."

The approval of the SHIELD Act on Wednesday comes after the House Administration Committee approved the two previous Democrat-backed election security bills that were later passed by the House along party lines.

These bills were the For the People Act, a sweeping voting reform and security bill, and the SAFE Act, which zeros in on increasing the security of voting infrastructure.

Both have stalled in the Senate due to Republican concerns over elections being federalized, and due to concerns that language included did not address election security. 

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