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Democrats make renewed push for election security

Democrats make renewed push for election security
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Congressional Democrats are shining the spotlight back on election security as they struggle to push various bills across the finish line in the face of Republican opposition.

Democrats in both the House and Senate are renewing efforts to force the GOP-controlled Senate to allow votes on election security measures that have been stalled due to Republican concerns about federalizing elections and re-litigating the 2016 election interference by Russia.

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Both House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDemocrats debate timing and wisdom of reparations vote Pelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' House panel approves bill to set up commission on reparations MORE (D-Md.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck Schumer'Building Back Better' requires a new approach to US science and technology Pew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Former state Rep. Vernon Jones launches challenge to Kemp in Georgia MORE (D-N.Y.) on Thursday sent letters to colleagues detailing their goals around election security for the fall.

“We must continue our push to protect our elections at the federal, state, and local levels, especially in the upcoming Senate appropriations process,” Schumer wrote, while criticizing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump looms over Senate's anti-Asian hate crimes battle Appointing a credible, non-partisan Jan. 6 commission should not be difficult Why President Biden is all-in in infrastructure MORE (R-Ky.) for not allowing any votes on the topic.

Hoyer wrote that “the House may take up additional legislation to strengthen election security.”

A spokesperson for Hoyer did not respond to a request for details about which legislation Hoyer was referring to.

The most recent push by Senate Democrats came in July after former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE testified that he expected Moscow to try to interfere in the 2020 elections, much like it did three years ago.

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McConnell and other Senate Republicans repeatedly blocked Senate Democrats from passing such legislation in July.

The Kentucky Republican pushed back against Democrats during a floor speech in July, labeling their criticism of his refusal to allow votes on election security legislation as “modern-day McCarthyism,” adding that “no matter how hard they bully, I will not be intimidated.”

The Senate has not entirely ignored election security: Earlier this year the chamber passed two bills, one that would make hacking voting systems a federal crime and another that would deny visas to individuals who attempt to meddle in U.S. elections.

However, additional funding for states to bolster their security has become a sticking point between Democrats and Republicans, with GOP senators arguing that not all of $380 million appropriated by Congress for this purpose has been spent. State officials, as recently as last month, have been begging for more funding.

The House-passed version of the fiscal year 2020 Financial Services and General Government bill includes $600 million for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to distribute to states to bolster election security.

The Senate Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the EAC is unlikely to include similar funding in its version, with subcommittee Chairman John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) telling reporters in June that he is “skeptical” that this funding is needed.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump looms over Senate's anti-Asian hate crimes battle Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds MORE (R-Maine), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, seemed more open to the security funds, telling Maine Public Radio on Friday, “I do think that we need to at this stage provide more help to state governments to make sure they're electoral system are secure.”

“If additional funding is needed I will certainly support that as well,” she said.

The Senate Intelligence Committee could add some momentum to the issue. The panel, which has traditionally worked in a bipartisan fashion, is expected to release additional volumes of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election this fall.

The committee plans to issue reports on the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference, the Obama Administration’s response to Russian interference, the role of social media disinformation campaigns and remaining counterintelligence questions.

The first report issued in July, which centered on Russian efforts to interfere in U.S. election infrastructure, found that all 50 states were targeted in some way by Russia in the lead-up to the 2016 elections, and that there was overall “extensive” efforts by the Russian government to interfere beginning in 2014.

On the other side of the Capitol, the House passed a sweeping voting reform bill in March that included language on election security. McConnell labeled the legislation the “Democrat Politician Protection Act” and refused to allow a vote on the measure.

The House later passed a bill that would give states $600 million to bolster election security and further secure voting machines from foreign interference. That measure also has not received a vote in the Senate.

The measure originated in the House Administration Committee, and a spokesperson for Chairwoman Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenCapitol Police watchdog paints damning picture of Jan. 6 failures Capitol Police watchdog issues report slamming 'deficiencies' before riot Lofgren says she's been briefed on 'disturbing' police report on riot MORE (D-Calif.) told The Hill on Friday that Lofgren plans to introduce legislation to address social media disinformation campaigns “soon.”

The spokesperson would not comment on specific timing or other details.

But even if Congress were to pass election security legislation, it would likely be vetoed by President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham: 'I could not disagree more' with Trump support of Afghanistan troop withdrawal GOP believes Democrats handing them winning 2022 campaign Former GOP operative installed as NSA top lawyer resigns MORE, who has not publicly supported any election security bills.

Trump tweeted in August that “no debate on election security should go forward without first agreeing that Voter ID (Identification) must play a very strong part in any final agreement. Without Voter ID, it is all so meaningless!”

None of the Democrat-backed election security bills feature voter ID language as a central element.