Almost 100 former officials, members of Congress urge Senate action on election security

Almost 100 former officials, members of Congress urge Senate action on election security
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A group of nearly 100 former members of Congress, Cabinet officials, ambassadors and other officials is urging Congress to take action to secure U.S. elections, citing “severe threats to our national security” if certain steps are not taken.

The officials, all of whom are members of nonprofit political action group Issue One’s “ReFormer’s Caucus,” sent a letter to the Senate on Thursday urging members to support various bills designed to bolster election security.

“Foreign interference in American elections is a national security emergency,” the group wrote. “We are alarmed at the lack of meaningful Congressional action to secure our elections. The United States cannot afford to sit by as our adversaries exploit our vulnerabilities. Congress — especially the Senate — must enact a robust and bipartisan set of policies now.”

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Specifically, the officials advocated for the passage of five bipartisan bills, including the Honest Ads Act, a bill meant to increase the transparency surrounding online political ads, and the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, which would impose sanctions on countries that interfere in U.S. elections.

The officials also urged the Senate to pass legislation aimed at increasing the cybersecurity of voting infrastructure and cracking down on foreign donations to U.S. elections.

The group of former officials include former Defense Secretaries Leon Panetta and Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelMore than 100 national security professionals urge Trump to invoke Defense Production Act Almost 100 former officials, members of Congress urge Senate action on election security GOP Senate candidate said Republicans have 'dual loyalties' to Israel MORE, both served under former President Obama, and former Homeland Security Secretary James Loy, who served under former President George W. Bush.

Ten former senators from both sides of the aisle, more than 60 former bipartisan members of the House, four former ambassadors, several other former Cabinet secretaries and members of the 9/11 Commission — a group formed after the Sept. 11 attacks to create recommendations to prevent a similar attack in the future — also signed the letter.

The officials urged the Senate to approve funding to help states boost election security efforts, and establish a set of minimum security requirements.

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The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal 2020 funding for the financial services and general government budget with $250 million included for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to distribute to states for election security, but the funds do not come with any requirements beyond that they be used for elections.

By contrast, the House-passed version of the same bill includes $600 million for the EAC to go to states for election security, but includes language stipulating how the funding can be used.

“As our nation faces attacks by foreign adversaries on several fronts, we encourage you to work in a bipartisan manner to pursue these solutions,” the officials wrote. “Unity in times of national crisis has long been a hallmark of American government. The current crisis is no exception.”

Election security has been a divisive issue this Congressional session; the Democratic-controlled House has passed three major election security bills that have all been blocked in the Senate due to Republican concerns that they federalize elections or endanger First Amendment rights.

Over the past week, Senate Democrats have come to the floor multiple times to try to get votes on various election security bills, but have been blocked each time by Republicans.

The topic has drawn further debate due to former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE's report. It found that Russian actors launched a sweeping hacking and disinformation campaign in the run-up to the 2016 election designed to favor President TrumpDonald John TrumpCDC updates website to remove dosage guidance on drug touted by Trump Trump says he'd like economy to reopen 'with a big bang' but acknowledges it may be limited Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill MORE.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has also released reports on Russian interference efforts as part of its bipartisan investigation, finding that the Kremlin directed disinformation efforts during the 2016 election.