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Senate Intelligence report triggers new calls for action on election security

Senate Intelligence report triggers new calls for action on election security
© Greg Nash

Democrats are renewing their calls for Senate action on election security measures following the release of a Senate Intelligence Committee report that found the Kremlin directed Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

The party has repeatedly gone after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day MORE (R-Ky.) for imposing obstacles to action on election security, a point underscored once again in the wake of the bipartisan Intelligence report.

McConnell was “blocking a full-throated U.S. response” by stopping various election security bills from being brought up in the Senate and burying them “in his legislative graveyard,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerTrump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report Trump announces opening of relations between Sudan and Israel Five takeaways on Iran, Russia election interference MORE (D-N.Y.) charged in a statement.

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Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetCotton mocks NY Times over claim of nonpartisanship, promises to submit op-eds as test Democrats sense momentum for expanding child tax credit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' MORE (D-Colo.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a 2020 presidential candidate, called on McConnell to allow votes on election security legislation.

“Foreign interference continues to this day, and we need to take immediate action to prevent foreign adversaries from exploiting social media to undermine our democracy,” Bennet said in a statement. “The future of our democracy depends on it.”

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate Intel leadership urges American vigilance amid foreign election interference Intel officials say Iran, Russia seeking to influence election Senate Intel leaders warn of election systems threats MORE (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for Congress to set “guardrails” for social media companies, including advocating for more transparency around what is posted online and giving Americans control of their data.

“As was made clear in 2016, we cannot expect social media companies to take adequate precautions on their own,” Warner said. “Congress must step up and establish guardrails to protect the integrity of our democracy.”

Democrats said Congress must “examine legislative approaches to ensuring Americans know the sources of online political advertisements,” an effort that could make it easier to see who is behind ads on Facebook and other platforms.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharStart focusing on veterans' health before they enlist Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (D-Minn.), who is running for president, wrote a letter to House Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntPower players play chess match on COVID-19 aid GOP to Trump: Focus on policy Low-flying helicopters to measure radiation levels in DC before inauguration MORE (R-Mo.) on Wednesday asking that he schedule a markup of the Honest Ads Act. 

That bill would change the language of the Federal Election Campaign Act to require the sponsors of ads to be disclosed “in any public communication” instead of specific mediums. It would also require all social media groups with more than 50 million monthly visitors to maintain a public file of all political ads purchased for more than $500. 

According to Klobuchar’s office, Facebook voluntarily agreed to implement the bill’s transparency requirements in regards to political advertisements on its platform, though Klobuchar argued at the time that the bill must be signed into law to prevent “a patchwork of voluntary measures from tech companies.”

It’s unclear whether Republicans are ready to move forward with anything in response to the Senate report.

Blunt said during a hearing in May that he had no plans to bring forward any piece of election security legislation for markup since he did not “see any likelihood that those bills would get to the [Senate] floor.”

A Republican congressional source told The Hill that the GOP sees the legislation as going “way beyond any recommendation” contained in the Senate Intelligence Committee report, and that it was unlikely to proceed. 

“It is crafted in a way that blurs the line between what is political and what is issue based, giving more of a likelihood that private citizens have to disclose more about what they think or believe or what groups they belong to,” the Republican congressional source said. 

The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report comes after months of debate on Capitol Hill as to how to address election security vulnerabilities in the run-up to 2020. 

The House has passed multiple pieces of legislation in relation to election security, including the sweeping For the People Act, which would require a coalition of federal agencies to issue a “national strategy” on how to protect American elections against foreign interference.

Republicans have blasted the bill, which McConnell refers to as the “Democrat Politician Protection Act” due to language on voting reform and concerns around the bill federalizing the election process.

McConnell did recently co-sponsor an amendment to an annual appropriations bill that would give states $250 million to increase the election security of voting infrastructure.

And in the wake of the report’s release, another key Republican argued for action around preventing foreign interference in elections.

“Any solution has to balance America’s national security interests with our constitutionally-protected right to free speech,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrAs Trump downplayed the virus publicly, memo based on private briefings sparked stock sell-offs: NYT Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Bipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs MORE (R-N.C.) said in a statement on Tuesday. “Social media companies, federal agencies, law enforcement, and Congress must work together to address these challenges.”