Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) on Tuesday blocked an attempt by Democrats to pass legislation meant to prevent Russia and other countries from interfering in elections.
Crapo’s move came after Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) asked for consent to pass the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines, or DETER Act. Van Hollen argued the bill would underscore that there would be a “very tough price to pay” if Moscow meddles in U.S. elections.
“It’s designed to send a very clear and simple message to Russia or any other country that is thinking about interfering in our elections and undermining our democracy that if we catch you, you will suffer a severe penalty,” Van Hollen said.
Van Hollen and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) re-introduced the bill earlier this year. It requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to determine whether there was any foreign interference in federal elections and impose sanctions on any nations found to interfere.
Specifically, if the DNI determines that Moscow meddled in U.S. elections, sanctions on Russia would have to be implemented within 30 days of the determination.
Senators first introduced the legislation in early 2018, but that the bill has stalled amid pushback from GOP senators and members of leadership.
Crapo — who is chairman of the Banking Committee, which is one of two Senate panels with jurisdiction over sanctions — noted that the upper chamber had already passed sanctions legislation targeting Moscow in 2017.
“I think that President Trump has probably put more sanctions on the Russians than any president in our history,” Crapo said.
He added that he was open to considering further legislation but warned that sanctions are a “two-edge sword.”
“The mechanisms in this bill have been designed more to attack the Trump administration and Republicans than to attack the Russians and those who would attack our country and our elections,” Crapo added.
“When we can stop trying to make it anti-Trump or anti-Republican or make politics out of the problems that Russia truly is creating for us, maybe we can come together and pass yet another strong piece of legislation to move forward,” he said.
Van Hollen noted he and Rubio had made changes to their original bill to try to bring on more support, including adding the ability for Trump to waive the new sanctions.
“This has nothing to do with President Trump. This has to do with protecting our elections,” Van Hollen said.
The back-and-forth marks the latest instance of Democrats trying to pass election-related legislation on the Senate floor only to be blocked by GOP senators.
Democrats have also tried to pass legislation that would bolster the United States’s election infrastructure and require campaigns to report any offers of foreign assistance to the FBI.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) predicted on Tuesday that if the Van Hollen-Rubio bill was allowed it come up for a vote “it would pass almost unanimously.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said that he told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that interference in U.S. domestic affairs is “unacceptable.”
“On the question of interference in our domestic affairs, I was clear, it’s unacceptable and I made our expectation of Russia clear,” Pompeo said during a joint press conference with Lavrov.
Lavrov also met with Trump at the White House on Tuesday. Trump said in a tweet that they discussed election meddling. Lavrov, however, disputed the White House account telling reporters “we haven’t even actually discussed elections.”