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Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is introducing legislation barring foreign nationals from financing U.S. referendum campaigns, after Axios revealed federal regulators recently okayed the practice.

Why it matters: Gillibrand's bill would close what good government advocates call a glaring loophole in federal election laws allowing foreign nationals to bankroll efforts to reshape state and local laws.

  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also said Wednesday he plans to introduce legislation to close the loophole.

What's happening: Gillibrand's bill, the Stop Foreign Interference in Ballot Measures Act, would amend the prohibition on foreign national donations to U.S. political campaigns to include state and local ballot initiatives.

  • The law as currently written has been interpreted to exclude such contests from the definition of "elections."
  • As a result, the Federal Election Commission ruled over the summer that bans on foreign national donations to U.S. political campaigns do not apply to ballot committees.

What they're saying: “It is absolutely chilling that foreign nationals can fund ballot initiatives, giving them significant influence on our laws and democracy. This loophole is frankly dangerous and must be closed swiftly,” Gillibrand said in a statement.

  • “Foreign nationals should not be able to engage in America’s democratic process,” Rubio said in a statement on his upcoming bill. "We must do everything we can to protect the votes of American citizens.”

Go deeper

Updated Nov 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Mapped: Voting rights for 2022

Expand chart
Data: Brennan Center for Justice; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Your ability to vote in 2022 will largely depend on where you live, as lawmakers in 25 states have made it easier for people to vote while those in at least 19 states have made it more difficult, per the Brennan Center for Justice.

Why it matters: The new laws are likely to make the disparities between states even greater. The states where voting is already difficult have been the ones to enact stricter laws; those where it is easier to vote have expanded access to the ballot box.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congressional leaders clinch support for crucial defense bill, debt limit votes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer passes waiting reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress has found a shortcut to pass its annual defense funding bill and raise the debt limit.

Driving the news: The House voted Tuesday night on two major bills — one creating a one-time, fast-track process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, and another passing its annual defense bill.

House passes annual defense bill

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted to pass the annual defense bill 363-70 on Tuesday night, authorizing nearly $770 billion in funding for defenses and national security programs.

Why it matters: The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) still has to clear the Senate, but the House passage greatly increases the chances that the must-pass defense bill will move through both chambers of Congress before the end of the year.