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 ScaliseLive updates on impeachment: Schiff fires warning at GOP over whistleblower Bottom Line Trump allies assail impeachment on process while House Democrats promise open hearings soon 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 GrahamGOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families MORE (R-S.C.), a close ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation 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 ThompsonBipartisan bill to secure election tech advances to House floor Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Senators urge Trump to fill vacancies at DHS 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 RogersThe Hill's Campaign Report: Red-state governors races pose test for Trump Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race Overnight Defense: House approves Turkey sanctions in rebuke of Trump | Trump attacks on Army officer testifying spark backlash | Dems want answers from Esper over Ukraine aid 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 McConnellKavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families On The Money: Trump appeals to Supreme Court to keep tax returns from NY prosecutors | Pelosi says deal on new NAFTA 'imminent' | Mnuchin downplays shutdown threat | Trump hits Fed after Walmart boasts strong earnings 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 BluntOvernight Health Care: Cigarette smoking rates at new low | Spread of vaping illness slowing | Dems in Congress push to block Trump abortion rule GOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Alcohol industry races to save tax break by year-end deadline 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 SchumerOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Schumer blocks drug pricing measure during Senate fight, seeking larger action MORE (D-N.Y.) said.

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal | Facebook reports millions of post takedowns | Microsoft shakes up privacy debate | Disney plus tops 10M sign-ups in first day Microsoft embraces California law, shaking up privacy debate Google sparks new privacy fears over health care data 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 MurphyTrump administration unveils new plan for notifying public on 2020 election interference Overnight Health Care: House Dems clash over Pelosi drug pricing bill | Senate blocks effort to roll back Trump ObamaCare moves | Number of uninsured children rises House Democrats clash over Pelosi's drug pricing bill 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 DavisNew hemp trade group presses lawmakers on immigration reform, regs Shimkus says he's reconsidering retirement Shimkus says he's been asked to reconsider retirement 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 RubioGOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump Paul's demand to out whistleblower rankles GOP colleagues MORE (R-Fla.) said he wants to pass his legislation with Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Senate Foreign Relations chair: 'Best' not to pass Turkey sanctions bill 'at this moment' On The Money: Retirement savings bill blocked in Senate after fight over amendments | Stopgap bill may set up December spending fight | Hardwood industry pleads for relief from Trump trade war 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.”