GOP too busy protecting Kavanaugh to pass bill protecting elections


Republicans have been so busy defending Brett Kavanaugh that they ran out of time to pass a critical election security bill ahead of 2018 midterms.

Republicans have spent so much time and energy trying to defend Trump's Supreme Court nominee in the wake of multiple, serious allegations of sexual assault that they didn't leave any time to pass a critical bill aimed at protecting our elections from cyberattacks.

According to Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), Republicans haven't even agreed on the final text of the bipartisan election security bill known as the Secure Elections Act, which would have required states to use backup paper ballots and perform audits after elections to ensure that no voting systems were hacked or otherwise compromised.

It also called for establishing "an advisory panel of independent experts" to develop guidelines on election cybersecurity, and to identify and remedy vulnerabilities.

The bill was introduced in response to Russia's targeting of U.S. election infrastructure in 2016, and was supposed to be passed in time for midterm elections.

But with Congress only in session for a limited number of days before November's midterm elections, lawmakers say time has run out to pass the bill.

"The House won’t be here after this week so it’s going to be impossible to get passed," Lankford told The Hill.

While the bill was initially slated for markup by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee last month, Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) postponed the process at the last minute due to a lack of GOP support.

The White House also publicly criticized the bill and said it would not support its passage.

Thanks to the lack of political will in the White House and among congressional Republicans, the bipartisan election security bill will not be passed in time for midterms, meaning that our elections will remain just as vulnerable to cyberattacks as they were during the 2016 presidential race.

As The Hill noted, the GOP-led Congress has not passed a single piece of legislation to protect our election systems from cyberattacks since the 2016 election, when Russia carried out an unprecedented interference operation aimed at helping Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton.

As part of that operation, Russia targeted some of our nation's most sensitive election infrastructure, including voter registration websites, state-owned computers and networks, and companies that supply election-related software and technology to individual states.

While there is no evidence that votes tallies were actually altered in 2016, top U.S. intelligence officials have warned that Russia continues to target our infrastructure with increasingly sophisticated cyber operations. Some lawmakers have even suggested that 2016 may have been a test run for more severe operations in the future, and the 2018 midterms are expected to be a prime target.

In July, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats sounded the alarm about these ongoing attacks, saying "the warning lights are blinking red" just as they were in the weeks and months ahead of the terror attacks on 9/11. He further warned that our digital infrastructure and election systems are "literally under attack."

Trump, meanwhile, has downplayed and even tried to discredit these warnings. On repeated occasions he has sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over our own intelligence agencies and even made the absurd suggestion that the U.S. should work with Russia on cybersecurity-related issues.

And when he's not actively undermining the U.S. intelligence community, he's ignoring issues related to election security altogether. He didn't even convene the first official White House meeting about the issue until the end of July 2018.

With Trump failing to act, Congress has only made the situation worse by refusing to use its authority to pass legislation aimed at securing our elections from future attacks.

Last month, Senate Republicans nearly unanimously voted against legislation that would have provided additional funding to states to secure their election systems. The bill was aimed at enhancing election-related cybersecurity by replacing outdated equipment and undertaking other basic security measures like improving training and hiring additional personnel.

With only one Republican voting in favor of the bill, it fell short of the number of votes needed to pass.

And now, with the midterm elections fast approaching, Republicans have once again failed to take action to protect the integrity of our elections.

Instead, they've spent their time plotting how to rush through a vote on Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, and attacking the women accusing him of sexual assault.

Apparently, the GOP has decided that protecting Kavanaugh is more important than anything else — more important, even, than protecting our democratic process.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.