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 ScaliseOvernight Energy: Trump reportedly opposes royalty cuts for oil, gas companies | House GOP presses Saudis to ease oil production | Exxon Mobil cuts budget amid industry slump House Republicans threaten pushback on Saudi Arabia amid oil market slump House GOP leaders back effort to boost small-business loans 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 GrahamBipartisan senators call on China to close all wet markets Bipartisan lawmakers call for global 'wet markets' ban amid coronavirus crisis Trump attacks WHO amid criticism of his coronavirus response MORE (R-S.C.), a close ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders says he wouldn't 'drop dead' if Trump decided on universal healthcare Overnight Health Care: Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening | Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next relief deal | Fauci says death toll could be around 60,000 Hillicon Valley: State officials push for more election funds | Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure for privacy bill | Senators warned not to use Zoom | Agencies ask FCC to revoke China Telecom's license 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 ThompsonDemocrats struggle to keep up with Trump messaging on coronavirus Pelosi forms House committee to oversee coronavirus response Democrats introduce bill to set up commission to review coronavirus response 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 RogersFreshman Dem finds voice in fight against online extremism Lawmakers criticize Trump's slashed budget for key federal cyber agency GOP lobbyist tapped for White House legislative affairs 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 McConnellThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Trump advisor Bossert says to test the well, not ill; Senate standoff on next relief bill McCarthy slams Democrats on funding for mail-in balloting Harris, Ocasio-Cortez among Democrats calling for recurring direct payments in fourth coronavirus bill 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 BluntSenators, bipartisan state officials press Congress for more election funds Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next COVID-19 relief deal Voting rights group pushes steps to protect voters during coronavirus pandemic 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHarris, Ocasio-Cortez among Democrats calling for recurring direct payments in fourth coronavirus bill House Republicans, key administration officials push for additional funding for coronavirus small business loans Rep. Massie threatens to block next relief bill, calls for remote voting MORE (D-N.Y.) said.

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Democratic senator rips Navy head's 'completely inappropriate' speech on ousted carrier captain Democrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog 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 MurphyFlorida Democrat hits administration over small business loan rollout Democrats struggle to keep up with Trump messaging on coronavirus Pelosi scrambles to secure quick passage of coronavirus aid 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 DavisPandemic sparks partisan brawl over voting by mail House Republicans, key administration officials push for additional funding for coronavirus small business loans Hillicon Valley: Coronavirus tracking sparks surveillance concerns | Target delivery workers plan Tuesday walkout | Federal agency expedites mail-in voting funds to states | YouTube cracks down on 5G conspiracy videos 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 RubioSenate blocks dueling coronavirus relief plans Five problems banks face in getting coronavirus relief out the door Mnuchin, Schumer in talks to strike short-term relief deal MORE (R-Fla.) said he wants to pass his legislation with Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Trump advisor Bossert says to test the well, not ill; Senate standoff on next relief bill Pelosi digs in on next coronavirus bill: 'We have made our statement' Senate blocks dueling coronavirus relief plans 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.”