Week ahead: Senators make new push to improve election cybersecurity

Week ahead: Senators make new push to improve election cybersecurity
© Greg Nash

The coming week could bring movement on legislation aimed at securing U.S. voting infrastructure from cyber threats.

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden leads crowded field of Dems in potential 2020 matchup: poll Kamala Harris to campaign in Iowa for first time Harris accuses GOP of ‘weaponizing’ 2020 Census MORE (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that she and Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel GOP loads up lame-duck agenda as House control teeters The Hill's Morning Report — Kavanaugh, Ford saga approaches bitter end MORE (R-Okla.) are planning to introduce an amendment to a bill reauthorizing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that would help states modernize their election systems.


Harris and Lankford are both sponsors of the Secure Elections Act, a bill they introduced in December that would set up a grant program for states to replace outdated paperless voting machines and take other steps to bolster cybersecurity.

Harris said at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee meeting that the amendment will implement "bipartisan election security measures to modernize election cybersecurity across America and protect against foreign interference on future elections."

The lawmakers are hoping to attach the amendment to legislation that would reauthorize Homeland Security for the first time since it was created in the early 2000s. In July, the House passed its version of the bill, which would implement a number of reforms to Homeland Security's operations.

Leaders of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee are currently working on the upper chamber's version of the bill. The panel is expected to consider the legislation as soon as the coming week.

The left-leaning Center for American Progress on Thursday issued a memo to reporters urging Congress to pass election security funding as part of the omnibus appropriations bill lawmakers will take up later this month ahead of a March 23 deadline.

Meanwhile, expect more speculation over where special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation into Russia's election interference is going next.

NBC News reported Thursday that the special counsel is preparing charges against the Russians suspected of being behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and the email account of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton on if Bill should’ve resigned over Lewinsky scandal: ‘Absolutely not’ Electoral battle for Hispanics intensifies in Florida Trump adds campaign stops for Senate candidates in Montana, Arizona, Nevada MORE campaign chairman John Podesta.

Mueller's investigation has picked up steam in recent weeks with his indictment of 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian groups on charges relating to election meddling through social media and other tactics. Mueller also cut a recent plea deal with former Trump campaign aide Richard Gates.

Gates's cooperation in the probe is expected to put pressure on former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortThree reasons Mueller may not charge Trump with obstruction Judge calls Manafort plea deal 'highly unusual' Calif. man ensnared in Mueller probe sentenced to 6 months in prison MORE.

The Senate Judiciary Committee may also soon release a tranche of transcripts related to the panel's interviews with witnesses of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting during which Manafort, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerFive things to watch for in deteriorating US-Saudi relations NYT: Kushner paid almost nothing in taxes thanks to business tax break Trump to call Saudi king about missing journalist MORE, and Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel Donald Trump Jr. emerges as GOP fundraising force MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace: I told Jeb Bush 'he should have punched' Trump 'in the face' MORE met with a Russian lawyer after being offered damaging information on Clinton.

The comings days are also poised to offer a flurry of cyber-related activity in the upper chamber.

Lawmakers could soon vote on the nomination of Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I don't trust everybody in the White House' JPMorgan CEO withdraws from Saudi conference Trump defends family separations at border MORE's choice to replace Adm. Michael Rogers at the helm the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command. Nakasone appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his confirmation hearing on Thursday, during which he acknowledged that the U.S. has fallen short on deterring adversaries in cyberspace.

It is unclear when the Senate panel plans to vote on his nomination.

On Tuesday, the Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on worldwide threats featuring testimony from Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Senators seek US intel on journalist's disappearance | Army discharged over 500 immigrant recruits in one year | Watchdog knocks admiral over handling of sexual harassment case Lawmakers seeking intel on alleged Saudi plot against journalist It’s not just foreign state-owned telecom posing a threat  MORE and Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Meanwhile, the House Homeland Security Committee will meet Wednesday to focus on the department's effort to build its cybersecurity workforce. The hearing will specifically focus on a recent Government Accountability Office report that identified an "urgent" need for Homeland Security to better identify gaps in its cyber workforce.

And expect more scrutiny from lawmakers over the massive data breach at Equifax last year. The credit reporting firm on Thursday raised the number of breach victims by 2.4 million.


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