Senate Democrats will try to force vote on election security after Mueller hearings

Senate Democrats will try to force vote on election security after Mueller hearings
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats will attempt to force a vote on election security legislation on Wednesday night in response to earlier comments on Russia's interference efforts from former 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.

Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFacebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach New intel chief inherits host of challenges Overnight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces MORE (D-Va.), 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.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) will go to the Senate floor at 6 p.m. EDT to request unanimous consent on multiple bills designed to secure elections.

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The senators are taking this step following Mueller’s comments during House Judiciary and Intelligence committee hearings earlier in the day.

During questioning by Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdRepublicans offer support for Steve King challenger House Democrats target 2020 GOP incumbents in new ad The 9 House Republicans who support background checks MORE (R-Texas), Mueller said that Russians are attempting to interfere in elections “as we sit here,” and predicted they would interfere in the 2020 elections.

Mueller also testified that “over the course of my career, I've seen a number of challenges to our democracy," while adding, "The Russian government's effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American.” 

One of the bills the senators will try to secure a vote on will be Warner’s Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act, which would require political campaigns to report foreign contacts to the FBI and the Federal Election Commission.

“If the President and his campaign can't be trusted to do the right thing and report foreign interference attempts to the FBI, then we need to require it by law,” Warner tweeted on Wednesday afternoon. “Today I'm heading to the Senate floor to call for a vote on my bill, the FIRE Act, which will do just that.”

The issue of campaigns reporting foreign contacts to authorities was a major topic of discussion during the Mueller hearings, with Mueller describing not doing so as a crime “depending on the circumstances.”

Wyden tweeted that “one big takeaway from the Mueller hearing is that Republicans don’t care that Russia interfered in the 2016 election & they don’t care that Russia is going to do it again in 2020,” telling 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.) that “today would be a good day to bring legislation to the floor to #ProtectOurElections.”

Blumenthal added in a tweet that “Slandering Mueller & his team personally seems more important to Trump cronies than facing the damning facts in this report & the reality that our elections are under foreign attack.”

McConnell has so far refused to allow a vote on election security legislation, citing his belief that federal agencies are already well equipped to defend against attacks on elections, while other Republicans have blocked previous attempts to force votes on various election security bills.

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats published a report labeling McConnell “the lead opponent” to election security legislation, detailing what the Democrats see as steps taken by McConnell since 1999 to resist election security and voting reform efforts. 

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. But Senate Democrats are calling for more to be done. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerLewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down MORE (D-N.Y.) tweeted on Wednesday that “it is past time to protect our elections from interference. The Mueller report found that Putin interfered in our 2016 elections in a 'sweeping and systematic' fashion. So why is @SenateMajLdr McConnell leaving bipartisan election security bills in his legislative graveyard?”