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 HarrisSenators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents Warnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter Liberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP MORE (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that she and Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordGOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday Trump calls for Congress to take action against 'lowlifes' who burn American flag Senators offer bill to expand charitable giving tax break 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of the Secure Elections Act, a bill they introduced in December that would set up a grant program for states to replace outdated paperless voting machines and take other steps to bolster cybersecurity.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 (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 ClintonCan Republicans handle the aftermath of Donald Trump? Biden seeks to supplant Trump in Georgia Hillary Clinton: 'I would have done a better job' handling coronavirus 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 ManafortThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump turns to immigration; primary day delays expected GOP votes to give Graham broad subpoena power in Obama-era probe Will the 'law and order' president pardon Roger Stone? 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 KushnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks Mueller investigation witness George Nader sentenced to a decade in prison in child sex case Trump World boils over as campaign hits skids MORE, and Donald Trump Jr.Don John TrumpTrump Jr. knocks CNN's Chris Cuomo over interview with father: 'I'm not pretending to be a journalist' Trump Jr. to interview president for reelection campaign's online show 'Triggered' Trump Jr. calls elderly supporter who was assaulted 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 Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' 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 CoatsAmerica's divide widens: Ignore it no longer Trump gives Grenell his Cabinet chair after he steps down German lawmaker, US ambassador to Germany trade jabs 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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