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 allies throw jabs at Bolton over book's claims GOP confident of win on witnesses Collins Senate bid threatens to spark GOP rift in Georgia 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerLawyer says Parnas can't attend Senate trial due to ankle bracelet Senate Democrats' super PAC raised million in 2019 As the mental health crisis grows, Puerto Ricans need long-term care MORE (D-N.Y.) charged in a statement.

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Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Impeachment throws curveball in Iowa to sidelined senators 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 WarnerLawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision Democrats worry Trump team will cherry-pick withheld documents during defense Commerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  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 Jean KlobucharSanders opens up 15-point lead in New Hampshire: Poll Poll: 56 percent of Democrats say billionaire politicians more likely to cater to special interests Support for Biden, Sanders ticks up nationally: poll MORE (D-Minn.), who is running for president, wrote a letter to House Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntThe Hill's Morning Report - Bolton charge ups ante in witness showdown Trump team doubles down despite Bolton bombshell Bolton upends Trump impeachment trial  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 BurrMarsha Blackburn shares what book she's reading during Trump Senate trial GOP senator provides fidget spinners to Senate colleagues at lunch Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump 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.”