Election security legislation is hitting a wall on Capitol Hill despite special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have ‘no choice’ but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have ‘no choice’ but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE‘s 448-page report detailing Russia’s attempts to interfere with the nation’s last presidential contest.
The standoff is frustrating Democrats, who say President TrumpDonald John TrumpDC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump’s ‘character’ DC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump’s ‘character’ Mexico’s immigration chief resigns amid US pressure over migrants MORE’s remarks to ABC News that he would be open to accepting information on a political opponent invited more interference in the next election.
“I can’t believe Senator McConnell is not entertaining election security measures right now. … We don’t have a lot of time left,” said Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinThe Hill’s Morning Report – Trump and House Democrats resume battle The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump and House Democrats resume battle Trump’s border funding comes back from the dead MORE (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat.
The House passed a sweeping ethics and election reform bill that includes a paper ballot requirement and early voting standards. It also includes unrelated issues like tightening campaign finance laws, requiring a president and vice president to release their tax returns, and tapping independent commissions to draw redistricting maps.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations ‘alarming’ | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations ‘alarming’ | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: ‘He gets picked at every day’ MORE (R-Ky.) has vowed that it won’t get a vote, referring to it as the “Democratic Politician Protection Act.”
McConnell argued during an interview with Fox News’s Laura IngrahamLaura Anne IngrahamMcConnell defends Trump amid backlash: ‘He gets picked at every day’ McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: ‘He gets picked at every day’ Ebola outbreak in Africa spreads fake news in America MORE that he cared about election security but that the Senate wouldn’t be taking up legislation that tried to take oversight of elections away from state and local governments.
“I’m open to considering legislation, but it has to be directed in a way that doesn’t undermine state and local control of elections. The Democrats … would like to nationalize everything. They want the federal government to take over broad swaths of the election process because they think that would somehow benefit them,” McConnell said. “Election security I do care about, but we need to make sure the subject is election security.”
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi hits Trump on health care: His ‘cruel hypocrisy knows no bounds’ Pelosi hits Trump on health care: His ‘cruel hypocrisy knows no bounds’ On The Money: DOJ offers legal opinion backing refusal to release Trump tax returns | Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage | Trump bashes Powell ahead of crucial Fed meeting | Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill MORE (D-Calif.) announced in the wake of Trump’s comments that House Democrats will move a new package of election security bills, arguing the president has been “so cavalier to disregard, to be indifferent to law and any sense of ethics about who we are as a country to say he would invite foreign interventions.”
The package, according to Pelosi, will include legislation that requires campaigns to report contact from foreign nationals to the FBI, requires states to use paper ballots and closes “foreign money loopholes.”
The House Intelligence Committee is also expected to consider “targeted” legislation that would seek to counter Russian interference. And House Democrats are looking at sharpening language about what qualifies as a “thing of value.” Campaigns are currently barred from accepting money or some “other thing of value” from foreign nationals.
But those bills are unlikely to be taken up in the Senate.
Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign ‘dirt’ Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign ‘dirt’ Hillicon Valley: Tim Cook visits White House | House hearing grapples with deepfake threat | Bill, Melinda Gates launch lobbying group | Tech turns to K-Street in antitrust fight | Lawsuit poses major threat to T-Mobile, Sprint merger MORE (D-Va.) tried to pass legislation this week to require a campaign to contact the Federal Election Commission and the FBI about attempts by foreign nationals to influence an election, including trying to make campaign donations or coordinate with the campaign.
But he was blocked by Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTrump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign ‘dirt’ Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign ‘dirt’ Senate GOP blocks bill to require campaigns report foreign election assistance MORE (R-Tenn.), who argued the bill was overly broad. She added in a follow-up statement that the effort to pass the bill by unanimous consent was a “blatant political stunt.”
The Senate will have an all-members briefing on election security, McConnell confirmed during a weekly press conference this week. But he sidestepped a question about whether the Senate will take up legislation. A spokesman said Friday that he didn’t have any announcements on that front.
Trying to bring up legislation could spark backlash from Trump, who praised Blackburn on Friday “for fighting obstructionist Democrats led by Cryin’ Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerUS women’s soccer team reignites equal pay push Blue Dogs look to move forward on infrastructure project Democratic strategist says Republicans are turning immigration debate into ‘political football’ MORE.”
The New York Times reported earlier this year that acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyOn The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill New poll finds little GOP support for spending cuts to specific federal programs MORE warned former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump admin program sends asylum-seekers to await claims in Mexico, despite fears of violence: report Trump admin program sends asylum-seekers to await claims in Mexico, despite fears of violence: report Juan Williams: Cloud of illegitimacy hangs over Trump MORE not to brief Trump on possible interference in the upcoming election. Another official told CNN that it was like “pulling teeth” to try to get the White House to gear up for potential interference in the 2020 election.
But several Republican senators have backed moving legislation to bolster the country’s election infrastructure, prevent future meddling or penalize interference attempts.
“I would hope we as we get closer to the election cycle — I mean, we need to do it irrespective of 2016,” said Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill’s Morning Report — Uproar after Trump’s defense of foreign dirt on candidates The Hill’s Morning Report — Uproar after Trump’s defense of foreign dirt on candidates Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign ‘dirt’ MORE (R-Fla.) in response to a question about the likelihood that the Senate takes up legislation. “We’ve got to go after the tactics.”
Rubio and Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocrats ask Fed to probe Trump’s Deutsche Bank ties Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump’s Deutsche Bank ties Lawmakers raise security concerns about China building NYC subway cars MORE (D-Md.) have legislation that would slap sanctions on Russia if it interferes in future elections and outlines actions any foreign government or foreign actor could take that would “elicit retaliation” from the United States. But the bill has been stuck in limbo, and Rubio told The Hill he had not seen any movement on the legislation.
The Senate has passed smaller measures such as the DETER, or Defending Elections against Trolls from Enemy Regimes, Act by Durbin and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMcConnell defends Trump amid backlash: ‘He gets picked at every day’ McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: ‘He gets picked at every day’ The Hill’s 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate MORE (R-S.C.) earlier this month. The Senate Judiciary Committee also passed legislation that would make it a federal crime to hack any voting system used in a federal election, but the bill hasn’t yet been called up on the floor.
Sens. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordOvernight Defense: Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy | Trump, Macron downplay rift on Iran | Trump mourns West Point cadet’s death in accident | Pentagon closes review of deadly Niger ambush Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy: ‘You are the pride of our nation’ Hillicon Valley: Mueller remarks put spotlight on election security bills | US to ask visa applicants for social media info | Tech blasts Trump tariffs on Mexico MORE (R-Okla.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers’ use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers’ use of location data It’s time to let Medicare to negotiate drug prices MORE (D-Minn.) are expected to reintroduce the Secure Elections Act, though two aides said Friday that they are still negotiating changes to the legislation.
Lankford, who has been consulting the White House, indicated late last month that the new version of the bill wouldn’t include funding for states to improve their election security practices but will require all jurisdictions to implement audits if they want future funding.
The White House’s opposition tanked the bill during the last Congress when it was abruptly pulled from a Rules Committee markup over GOP pushback.
Lankford’s legislation has split Senate Republicans, with Graham and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrTillis dodges primary challenge in NC Tillis dodges primary challenge in NC Trump Jr. on testimony: ‘Glad this is finally over’ MORE (R-N.C.) supporting it, even amid pushback from leadership. Lankford appeared to draw a hard line between his bill and legislation that would extend federal control of elections.
“There’s no reason for the federal government to tell each state how to do their local elections, but we do need to encourage those states to have a system that they can go back and audit and verify,” he said.
Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMcConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal McConnell: Senate will hold election security briefing MORE (R-Mo.), the chairman of the Rules Committee, said during a hearing this year that he did not plan to mark up any election security legislation because “I think the majority leader just is of the view that this debate reaches no conclusion.”
He reiterated when asked about Lankford’s plan to reintroduce his bill that “I don’t have anything new to say about that.”
“I don’t think there is any likelihood that we are going to move a bill that federalizes more of the election process,” Blunt added. “Our focus will be on being sure that we are supporting the state and local governments that have run and will be the best people to run elections.”
Mike Lillis contributed.