Senate GOP blocks three election security bills

Senate Republicans blocked an effort by Democrats to unanimously pass three election security-related bills Tuesday, marking the latest attempt to clear legislation ahead of the November elections

Democrats tried to get consent to pass two bills that require campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission (FEC) about foreign offers of assistance, as well as legislation to provide more election funding and ban voting machines from being connected to the internet.

But Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTrump must cut our dependence on Chinese drugs — whatever it takes Senate passes House's coronavirus aid bill, sending it to Trump Nikki Haley expected to endorse Loeffler in Senate race MORE (R-Tenn.) opposed each of the requests. Under the Senate's rules, any one senator can ask for unanimous consent to pass a bill, but any one senator can object and block their requests.

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Blackburn accused Democrats of trying to move the bills knowing that GOP lawmakers would block them and giving them fodder for fundraising efforts.

“They are attempting to bypass this body’s Rules Committee on behalf of various bills that will seize control over elections from the states and take it from the states and where do they want to put it? They want it to rest in the hands of Washington, D.C., bureaucrats,” she said.

Election security has become a point of contention during the Trump era. House Democrats have passed several election-related bills, including a sweeping ethics and election reform measure, but they've hit a wall in the GOP-controlled Senate.

A release from Democrats this week that blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor Progressive group knocks McConnell for talking judicial picks during coronavirus Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill MORE (R-Ky.) for a "legislative graveyard" included a list of 10 election security-related bills that have stalled in the upper chamber.

Senate Democrats have tried repeatedly during the past year to try to bring up election security bills on the floor without success.

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The latest attempt comes as Democrats are embroiled in their own days-long scandal after an app malfunctioned, throwing the Iowa caucuses into chaos. The snag was not due to a hack or cyberattack, but a "coding issue," according to the Iowa Democratic Party.

It also comes as Democrats are turning their attention to the 2020 election after the months-long impeachment battle, as they try to find ways to pressure GOP senators to buck President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE. The New Hampshire primary is underway Tuesday, and voters in both Nevada and South Carolina are expected to head to the polls this month.

"The current president of the United States, far from having the same fears about foreign interference as our founders, has been very public about his openness to foreign assistance and manipulation in support of his election," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBiden calls on Trump to appoint coronavirus 'supply commander' Democrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Schumer doubles down in call for Trump to name coronavirus supply czar MORE (D-N.Y.) said.

"The president was just impeached over this issue, and the Senate just concluded a trial in which it appeared a bipartisan majority of senators broadly accepted the fact that the president leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars of military assistance to Ukraine to compel its government to investigate one of his political rivals," he added.

Trump has denied wrongdoing in his dealings with Ukraine, with the administration arguing he was concerned about corruption and cost-sharing with other European countries. Several GOP senators who voted to acquit Trump on House-passed articles of impeachment also described the president's conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky as "shameful" and "inappropriate."

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Democratic Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDemocrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog Trump fires intelligence community watchdog who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint Hillicon Valley: Thousands of Zoom recordings exposed online | Google shares location data to counter virus | Dem senator pushes jobless benefits for gig workers | Twitter takes down 20,000 fake accounts MORE (Va.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Democrats say more unemployment benefits needed in wake of record unemployment claims Democrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout MORE (Ore.) each tried to clear bills on Tuesday.

The bills from Warner and Blumenthal would require campaigns to report offers of foreign assistance, including donations or coordination, to the FEC and the FBI.

“The appropriate response is not to say thank you, the appropriate response is to call the FBI,” Warner said.

Blumenthal, referring to the impeachment fight, argued that Republicans had let Trump “off the hook.”

“There is no doubt that he will only be emboldened in his efforts to illegally enlist foreign governments in his reelection campaign,” he added.

The Securing America's Federal Elections, or SAFE, Act — the third bill Democrats tried to clear — authorizes more funding for the Election Assistance Commission and includes language that would ban voting machines from being connected to the internet and being produced in foreign countries.

“America is 266 days away from the 2020 election, and Majority Leader McConnell has yet to take any concrete steps to protect our foreign elections from hacking or foreign interference,” Wyden said.

Wyden also argued that not having a nationwide ban on connecting voting machines to the internet was like “stashing our ballots in the Kremlin.”

Congress passed a mammoth spending package late last year that included an additional $425 million in election security funding.