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Senate Democrats introduce legislation to limit foreign interference in elections

Senate Democrats introduce legislation to limit foreign interference in elections

Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial Sunday shows - Biden agenda, Trump impeachment trial dominate Klobuchar says Senate impeachment trial of former official is constitutional: 'We have precedent' MORE (D-Minn.) and Jack ReedJack ReedOvernight Defense: Biden lifts Trump's transgender military ban | Democrats, advocates celebrate end of ban | 5,000 guardsmen staying in DC through mid-March Overnight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Senate confirms Austin to lead Pentagon under Biden MORE (D-R.I.) introduced legislation on Wednesday meant to combat foreign influence in U.S. elections through the establishment of a response center that coordinates intelligence sharing. 

The Combating Foreign Influence Act would require the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to establish a Malign Foreign Influence Response Center.

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This center would be the primary group responsible for compiling and analyzing intelligence on foreign influence operations and campaigns directed against U.S. elections.

The center would also help coordinate intelligence sharing between agencies including the FBI, and the departments of Homeland Security, Defense and State. The center would be required to submit an annual report to Congress detailing how its work is addressing privacy and civil liberties issues. 

“We currently have numerous agencies and departments independently working to combat foreign influence, and it’s past time that our intelligence community comes together to fight these threats,” Klobuchar said in a statement.

“The creation of this Response Center at the ODNI will help our intelligence community coordinate to better secure our democracy,” she added.

Reed noted in a statement that “Russian information warfare and malign foreign influence operations are ongoing and pose a serious threat to both our national security and democracy. The U.S. must step up efforts to counter this increasingly sophisticated and evolving threat.”

A similar version of the bill was included in the House-passed version of the 2020 Intelligence Authorization Act by Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyFive centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to name Speaker Government spending bill to include bipartisan energy provisions MORE III (D-Mass.). 

Klobuchar, one of the candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, which has jurisdiction over election security.

Reed serves as the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over cyber defense issues. 

Klobuchar is one of a group of Senate Democrats who have heavily pressured Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses McConnell: Power-sharing deal can proceed after Manchin, Sinema back filibuster Budowsky: A Biden-McConnell state of emergency summit MORE (R-Ky.) in recent months to allow votes on election security legislation.

McConnell and other Senate Republicans have cited concerns around federalizing elections in blocking most of the legislation proposed. 

Klobuchar and Reed are also co-sponsors of the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act, introduced earlier this year by Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerModerates vow to 'be a force' under Biden The next pandemic may be cyber — How Biden administration can stop it Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief MORE (D-Va.).

The bill, which has not seen action in the Senate, would require presidential campaigns to report contacts with foreign nationals trying to donate to or coordinate with the campaign to the FBI and the Federal Election Commission.