Feb 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn blocks three election security bills

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday blocked an attempt by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) to pass three election security-related bills via "unanimous consent," calling them a "federal power grab."

Why it matters: Just last week, the third volume of a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report found that the U.S. government was "not well-postured" to counter Russian interference in 2016. The Democratic-controlled House passed several election security bills last year, but none have been taken up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The big picture: Intelligence officials have continued to sound the alarm about the threat of foreign interference in future elections, with FBI director Christopher Wray warning last week that Russia continues to be engaged in "information warfare" ahead of the 2020 elections.

Details: Two of the bills proposed by Senate Democrats Tuesday would require campaigns to call the FBI if they're offered help from a foreign power.

  • Another bill would provide funding for the Election Assistance Commission and would ban voting machines from being connected to the internet.

What they're saying: "[Democrats] are attempting to bypass this body’s Rules Committee on behalf of various bills that will seize control over elections from the states and take it from the states and where do they want to put it?" Blackburn said. "They want it to rest in the hands of Washington, D.C., bureaucrats."

  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), stressing the need for the Senate to pass these bills, said: "The current president of the United States, far from having the same fears about foreign interference as our founders, has been very public about his openness to foreign assistance and manipulation in support of his election."

Go deeper

Senate Intel details Obama administration's response to 2016 Russian interference

Sens. Mark Warner and Richard Burr. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday released the third volume of its report on foreign interference in the 2016 election, which covered the U.S. government's response to Russia's hacking of Democratic emails and social media manipulation efforts.

The big picture: The committee found that the government was "not well-postured" to counter Russian interference with policy measures and that the Obama administration was constrained by its reluctance to publicize election meddling for fear of appearing political.

Senate Republicans are divided on drug costs and surprise medical bills

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday that Senate Republicans are divided on bipartisan bills to address both drug costs and surprise bills, The Hill reports.

The big picture: The White House vocally supports the bipartisan drug pricing bill by Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden.

Democrats demand new Russia sanctions over 2020 election interference

Putin and Trump. Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Senate Democratic leaders will send a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday afternoon demanding they sanction Russia — and potentially Russian President Vladimir Putin himself — for attempting to influence the 2020 presidential election.

Why it matters: The letter follows reports that a senior intelligence official briefed Congress that Russia is again interfering in the November election to help Trump. White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien repeatedly rejected that assessment on Sunday, and CNN later reported that the briefer may have overstated the intelligence community's evidence about Russia's goals.