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Republicans say they're satisfied with 2020 election security after classified briefings

Republicans say they're satisfied with 2020 election security after classified briefings
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Congressional Republicans are expressing confidence that the 2020 elections will be secure, despite strong protests from Democrats that more needs to be done.

House and Senate members received separate classified briefings from senior administration officials on Wednesday, during which the plans for securing the 2020 elections were outlined in the wake of Russia’s extensive interference ahead of the 2016 vote. 

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House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseMerrick Garland is right to prioritize domestic terrorism, but he'll need a bigger boat Why Congress must invoke the 14th Amendment now The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Ahead: One-shot vax, easing restrictions, fiscal help MORE (R-La.) told reporters that while the U.S. must be “very vigilant” against election threats from foreign governments, “the agencies have the tools they need, and I am confident they are addressing the threats.”

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPortman on Trump's dominance of GOP: Republican Party's policies are 'even more popular' Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents MORE (R-S.C.), a close ally of President TrumpDonald TrumpSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Sorkin uses Abbie Hoffman quote to condemn Capitol violence: Democracy is 'something you do' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress MORE who has previously supported additional election security legislation, said that he was “very impressed” by the administration’s efforts ahead of 2020. 

“They all said the president is giving them every authority they’ve asked for. No interference from the White House,” Graham said. 

While none of the administration officials involved spoke with the press, several lawmakers confirmed that they said during the closed-door meetings they didn’t need additional legislation or extra funding from Congress. 

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonLawmakers line up behind potential cyber breach notification legislation NAACP president accuses Trump of having operated under 'white supremacist doctrine' Lawmakers blame SolarWinds hack on 'collective failure' to prioritize cybersecurity MORE (D-Miss.) told reporters that the officials said “the resources are available to secure the 2020 elections,” and that they do not need anything else from lawmakers at this time. 

Thompson’s counterpart on the committee, ranking member Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersBiden seeks to walk fine line with Syria strike Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Overnight Defense: One-third of service members decline coronavirus vaccine | Biden to take executive action in response to Solar Winds hack | US, Japan reach cost sharing agreement MORE (R-Ala.), added that the briefing “gave some confidence to me that they’re on top of this.”

Election security legislation has been stalemated for months on Capitol Hill amid a standoff between House Democrats and Senate GOP leadership. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump shows he holds stranglehold on GOP, media in CPAC barnburner Trump rules out starting a new party: 'Fake news' Sunday shows - Trump's reemergence, COVID-19 vaccines and variants dominate MORE (R-Ky.) has opposed passing legislation on election security, and on Wednesday further lowered expectations that the briefing would manage to overcome the gap between parties, focusing his criticism on the Obama administration ahead of the briefing. 

“The more Obama gave, the more [Russian President Vladimir] Putin took. Among those consequences, as we all know, was that Putin felt sufficiently emboldened to seek to interfere in our 2016 presidential election,” McConnell said.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntPartisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Microsoft, FireEye push for breach reporting rules after SolarWinds hack MORE (R-Mo.), who has primary jurisdiction over election security in the Senate, said after the briefing that he did not expect any election security legislation to move in the chamber. 

“New federal election laws would not be the right thing to do, so I assume we’d have no legislation like that come through the Rules Committee,” Blunt said.

Trying to bring up legislation could put Republicans at odds with Trump, who they’ve warned conflates concerns about election meddling with questioning his 2016 White House win. 

Trump has touted his administration’s efforts to secure the 2020 vote, vowing in 2018 that “we’re going to take strong action to secure our election systems and the process” while rolling out an executive order on protecting U.S. elections. 

But Democrats in both chambers pushed back against Republican confidence over the issue.

“Interference in our election is a very, very serious problem and it is obvious that we have to do a lot more at both the public sector and the private sector levels to combat it. I am very worried about what the Russians and others might do in 2020,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe bizarre back story of the filibuster Hillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill MORE (D-N.Y.) said.

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSunday shows - Trump's reemergence, COVID-19 vaccines and variants dominate Warner: White House should 'keep open additional sanctions' against Saudi crown prince Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues MORE (D-Va.) added that, in addition to more legislation, the country needs “a White House that would finally acknowledge both the extent of what the Russians did in 2016 and publicly acknowledge that the ... conclusion of the intelligence community is that the Russians will be back.”  

Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Divided House on full display Rep. Stephanie Murphy says she's 'seriously considering' 2022 challenge to Rubio Blue Dogs push for further action on domestic terrorism MORE (D-Fla.), who introduced election security legislation with Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) on Wednesday, told reporters that the briefing “underscored” the importance of addressing the issue. 

The members were briefed by Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan, FBI Director Christopher Wray, U.S. Cyber Command chief and National Security Agency Director Gen. Paul Nakasone, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Kenneth Rapuano.

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Though House Democrats have been passing a myriad of election security legislation since taking over in January, they’ve run directly into a Senate buzzsaw, where Democrats are unable to pass legislation on their own. 

A few key Republicans broke ranks and endorsed passing additional election security legislation. 

House Administration Committee ranking member Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisLawmakers propose draft bill to create Capitol riot commission Pelosi says 9/11-style commission to investigate Capitol breach is 'next step' Conservative House Republican welcomes Clark as chief of US Chamber MORE (R-Ill.) told reporters that “as a policymaker, we should do more.” Davis recently introduced legislation that would make funds available to states to update aging election infrastructure. 

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioCPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Watch live: Day 2 at CPAC DeSantis derides 'failed Republican establishment' at CPAC MORE (R-Fla.) said he wants to pass his legislation with Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenMenendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill LIVE COVERAGE: Senate set to consider Garland for AG Plaskett quips male lawmakers 'would not have their wives in one attempt talking to her' during impeachment trial MORE (D-Md.) that would slap sanctions on future election meddlers. 

“I hope we can restart some momentum on it,” Rubio said, “because I don’t think you’ll find anybody in the national security field who doesn’t think it’s the best thing we can do.”