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Marco Rubio, Susan Collins and other Senate Intelligence Committee members during an election security hearing on March 21. Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

With the midterm elections less than six weeks away, policymakers are ramping up their focus on election meddling. Earlier this year, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act to deal with foreign interference. The bill is currently pending in the Senate Banking Committee and could get considered before the midterms.

Why it matters: The DETER Act requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to determine within one month of a federal election whether any foreign government has interfered. If the DNI were to make such a finding about Russia, the Treasury Department would be required within 10 days to impose a set of severe sanctions on specific individuals and businesses that could not be removed for two presidential election cycles.

It is easy to understand why some members of Congress would want to bypass presidential discretion and impose automatic sanctions on Russia. And this type of action could act as an effective deterrent.

Yes, but: Automatic mechanisms like those proposed in the DETER Act limit the administration's foreign policy flexibility. The act would tie the intelligence community's collection and analysis of information to specific and far-reaching policy actions, the responsibility for which now lies with other agencies, such as State or Treasury.

Moreover, Congress is not best positioned to identify individuals and businesses to be sanctioned. Policymakers in the executive branch have access to broader and more current information, along with the ability to weigh trade-offs of different approaches. Otherwise, the law could end up hurting U.S. businesses more than Russian companies or its economy. And eight years is an eternity in foreign policy. Locking in any policy for that amount of time could prove counterproductive.

The bottom line: There are better ways to send a message to countries using cyber tools to interfere in our elections or economy. Lawmakers could add some greater flexibility into the DETER Act. Or they could consider the Cyber Deterrence and Response Act, which provides a framework for combating cyberattacks, but provides the president more leeway in identifying those threats and imposing sanctions.

Jeffrey Kupfer is an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College. He previously served in the Treasury Department and the White House.

Go deeper

Europe's energy reliance on Russia is a crucial shield for Putin

Photo: Pavel Bednyakov/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Cracks in the NATO alliance regarding sanctions for Russia should President Vladimir Putin order troops into Ukraine are in large part based on energy supply concerns.

Why it matters: Russia holds tremendous leverage over some European countries because it provides roughly 40% of Europe's natural gas supply. In Germany, this figure is greater than 50%.

Why the Fed might want to jolt the markets

Fed chair Jerome Powell at a hearing earlier this month. Photo: Brendan Smialowski-Pool/Getty Images

So far, financial markets are cooperating nicely with the Federal Reserve's efforts to restrain inflation. They're doing the Fed's work for it by creating tighter financial conditions, in a distinctly non-panicky way.

  • But as the central bank's policymakers meet this week, an underlying question they face is whether the adjustment is happening too slowly.
Kate Marino, author of Markets
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Omicron outbreaks were bad for business in January

Data: New York Federal Reserve Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

Emerging anecdotal evidence shows just how hard the recent rise in COVID-19 cases hit businesses in early January — but that hasn't hurt some business leaders’ longer-term views of their companies' prospects.

Why it matters: Increasingly, the economic recovery has come in fits and starts that move in tandem with new peaks in cases. Look no further than the thousands of canceled flights and shuttered Broadway theaters in the wake of the Omicron variant's spread over the last few months.