Senate panel to take up Homeland Security reauthorization

Senate panel to take up Homeland Security reauthorization
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A key Senate panel will take up legislation this week that would reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as institute a number of reforms to the department’s operations. 

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will meet Wednesday to continue consideration of the legislation, the committee announced Monday. The House-passed version includes a number of reforms, including some that aim to bolster the department’s cybersecurity efforts. 

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Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisMadame Tussauds unveils new Biden and Harris figures Democrats ponder Plan B strategy to circumvent voting rights filibuster Watch: Lawmakers, activists, family members call for voting rights legislation on MLK day MORE (D-Calif.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordRubio blocks quick votes on stalemated defense bill Constant threats to government funding fail the American public GOP Senate candidate says Fauci is 'mass murderer,' should be jailed rather than 'hero' Rittenhouse MORE (R-Okla.), both committee members, are planning on introducing amendments to the bill that would help states bolster the cybersecurity of their voting systems.

Harris said last week that they planned to introduce “bipartisan election security measures to modernize election cybersecurity across America and protect against foreign interference on future elections.” 

Both senators are already sponsoring stand-alone legislation that would set up block grants for states to replace paperless voting machines with systems that provide a paper backup. The bill, called the “Secure Elections Act,” is one of several stalled efforts in Congress to secure future U.S. elections from foreign threats following Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

U.S. officials say that Russian hackers targeted election-related systems in 21 states as part of a broader effort to meddle in the 2016 election.

While none of the systems were involved in vote tallying, the revelation has triggered discussion about how to bolster security around and increase confidence in U.S. voting infrastructure, including voter databases and actual voting systems. Department of Homeland Security officials say that most of the targeting efforts ahead of 2016 were not successful. 

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will take up the House version of the reauthorization bill on Wednesday morning.

If signed into law, the bill would be the first-ever reauthorization of the Department of Homeland Security since its creation following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.