Democrats paint McConnell as 'lead opponent' to election security in new report

Democrats paint McConnell as 'lead opponent' to election security in new report
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats labeled Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAre Democrats turning Trump-like? House Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' Churches are arming and training congregants in response to mass shootings: report MORE (R-Ky.) as “the lead opponent” to election security efforts in a report released Tuesday.

The attack came as Democrats continue to push McConnell to bring election security legislation to the Senate floor. 

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The report, specifically released ahead of the House hearings featuring special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE on Wednesday, details what the Democrats see as steps taken by McConnell since 1999 to resist election security and voting reform efforts. 

“For years, Sen. McConnell has fought to increase the impact of dark money and corporate spending in our elections,” the Senate Democrats wrote. “But now, after reportedly fighting efforts to expose Putin’s interference during the 2016 elections, Senator McConnell is blocking bipartisan reforms that would secure our elections from foreign interference.”

The Senate Democrats pointed to efforts by McConnell and other Senate Republicans to block election security efforts in the Senate, accusing McConnell of “threatening the integrity of, and faith in, our democratic institutions.”

A spokesperson for McConnell pushed back against the claims made in the report, pointing The Hill towards comments made by McConnell on the Senate floor following a full Senate briefing from administration officials on efforts to secure elections that took place earlier this month. 

In his comments, McConnell praised the work done by federal agencies to secure elections in the lead up to 2020, saying that “Leaders across government are continuing to explore and repair potential vulnerabilities and increase cooperation ahead of the 2020 presidential election.”

McConnell noted that “Congress will certainly continue to monitor this closely, while resisting any efforts to use the failures of the past to justify sweeping federalizations of election law, as some on the other side have consistently sought to do.”

McConnell has so far not brought up House-passed election security and voting reforms bills, including the For the People Act and the Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act. 

Republicans have also blocked efforts by Senate Democrats to push through other election security bills by unanimous consent, including one that would require backup paper ballots and provide election security grants to states, and another that would require campaigns to report offers of illegal foreign assistance to the FBI. 

The Senate did pass legislation last week that would make it a federal crime to hack into voting systems, and also passed a bill earlier this year that would deny visas to those who meddle or are suspected of trying to meddle in U.S. elections. 

For Senate Democrats, however, these bills are not adequate to address threats to U.S. election infrastructure. 

At a press conference on Tuesday, Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks MORE (D-Ill.) said that Congress was doing “nothing” to secure elections ahead of 2020, and the reason was McConnell. 

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations Wyden calls for end to political ad targeting on Facebook, Google Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE (D-Ore.), who has sponsored multiple election security bills, said during the same press conference that “hostile foreign actors are going to interfere in the 2020 elections in a way that makes what happens in 2016 look like very small potatoes.”

Wyden added that Senate Democrats plan to “fan out all over the country” during the upcoming August recess to sound the alarm on threats to elections.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) at the same event labeled McConnell “the grim reaper for our democracy.”

“I think soon folks are going to be asking what do the Russians have on Mitch McConnell,” Blumenthal said. “Why is he unwilling or unable to move forward on legislation to protect our democracy?”