McConnell pans House election interference bill

McConnell pans House election interference bill
© Aaron Schwartz

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellErnst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Trump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request MORE (R-Ky.) on Wednesday blasted a House bill meant to help prevent election interference, calling it an attempt to “expand government's control over America's political speech.”

"House Democrats have achieved something remarkable here. They have drafted legislation that is so anti-First Amendment that it has united everybody from former [Federal Election Commission (FEC)] commissioners to the [American Civil Liberties Union] to yours truly in opposition to it,” McConnell said.

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He added that Democrats are “chipping away at the First Amendment. It's a pet project they return to time and time again. It's disturbing."

The House is set to vote on Wednesday on the SHIELD Act, which requires campaigns to report “illicit offers” of election assistance from foreign governments or individuals to both the FBI and the FEC, and take steps to ensure that political advertisements on social media are subject to the same stricter rules as ads on television or radio.

McConnell knocked the tougher ad requirements, arguing that they could lead to media platforms “rejecting political ads altogether.”

“It's a textbook example of policy designed to reduce the amount of free speech in our country,” he said.

McConnell also seized on wording in the bill that references “legitimate journalistic activities.” The legislation mentions the phrase once to note that provisions in the measure aren’t meant to “impede legitimate journalistic activities.”

"Now, I look forward to hearing what Orwellian commission or process House Democrats may have in mind for determining whether Washington, D.C., deems a particular journalist 'legitimate,' ” McConnell added.

Election security legislation has emerged as a rolling point of contention between the House and Senate.

Republicans have repeatedly blocked House-passed legislation, most recently on Tuesday, that would overhaul election and ethics requirements, arguing that they are an attempt to further nationalize elections. They’ve also blocked legislation that would require campaigns to report foreign offers of assistance to the FBI.