Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenators turn up the heat on Amazon, data brokers during hearing GOP Sen. Braun says abortion laws should be left up to states Klobuchar says 'best way' to protect abortion rights is to codify Roe v. Wade into law MORE (D-Minn.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenators turn up the heat on Amazon, data brokers during hearing Minimum tax proposal drives wedge between corporate interests Senate parliamentarian looms over White House spending bill MORE (D-Ore.) vowed on Thursday to keep pushing for additional funding for states to boost their mail-in voting efforts in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
The pledge by Klobuchar and Wyden comes a day after the Senate unanimously approved a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill that included $400 million for states to enhance mail-in voting and other efforts to keep elections stable despite the ongoing pandemic.
For the two senators, and for other election advocates, the funding level fell woefully short of the $2 billion they had pressed the Senate to include for elections earlier this week.
“Clearly when you get $400 million in a bill, it is a priority, but we need to get the secretaries of State what they are looking for,” Klobuchar told reporters during a press call on Thursday, stressing that “we are in the middle of a crisis.”
The amount was far less than the $4 billion proposed in the stimulus bill rolled out by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike Ocasio-Cortez: 'Embarrassment' that Democratic leaders are delaying Boebert punishment Overnight Health Care — Biden mandate faces Dem resistance MORE (D-Calif.) for elections earlier this week.
Klobuchar and Wyden stressed that obtaining more funding for states to allow primary and general elections to move forward this year amid the coronavirus was also a “top priority” for Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBuild Back Better Is bad for the states Dole to lie in state in Capitol Rotunda Biden points to drug prices in call for Senate social spending vote MORE (D-N.Y.).
While they praised Senate Republicans for supporting the inclusion of the $400 million in the bill, they criticized them for not supporting language on requirements for how states can use the funds.
Klobuchar told reporters that in order to get the funds into the spending bill, she and Wyden worked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer tees up key Thursday vote on debt deal House approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike Senate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHouse approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike McConnell faces GOP pushback on debt deal McConnell 'confident' 10 GOP senators will back debt deal MORE (R-Mo.), holding a call with secretaries of State to urge for inclusion of the initial funding.
She noted that they would use the Senate recess over the next month to lobby other senators and election officials to ensure more funds were included in future bills.
Among supporters for funding for elections during the coronavirus crisis are Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) and New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D).
The two secretaries, who serve as president and president-elect of the National Association of Secretaries of State respectively, penned an open letter to Congress this week asking it designate “flexible” funding to states to address the challenges posed by coronavirus to elections.
It was not clear whether McConnell, Blunt and other Senate Republicans would throw their weight behind sending states more funds for mail-in voting. An official for McConnell declined to comment to The Hill on the issue.
Republicans have repeatedly pushed back against election security and voting reform measures introduced by Democrats since Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, citing concerns around federalizing elections and taking power away from states.
Wyden criticized this approach by Republicans, calling it the “same playbook they have been using for years” around elections.
“You have to be kidding me, we are not talking about that at all, we are talking about giving the states the tools to upscale the current system,” Wyden told reporters. “What we are talking about is not reinventing the wheel, certainly not federalizing the election, but coming up with a new partnership.”
The senators advocated for the need to pass a bill they jointly introduced earlier this month that would promote mail-in and absentee voting, along with hiring more poll workers for in-person voting. Wyden vowed he and Klobuchar would “pound away” at this effort “day in and day out.”
The process to get U.S. states and territories the $400 million in election funding as quickly as possible has already begun. Klobuchar and Wyden said each state would receive at least $3 million, a figure that would increase based on the population of each state.