White House gets Senate GOP to block its own bill protecting elections


At Trump's behest, Republicans are suddenly stalling a major bipartisan effort to bolster America's election security against hacking and other threats.

The Trump administration has pressured its Republican allies in the Senate to squelch a bipartisan bill to protect American elections against interference, Yahoo News reports.

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) proposed the Secure Elections Act, which was then cosponsored by Democratic senators like Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Republicans Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

Before the White House got involved, the bill was expected to pass the Senate and become a rare bipartisan success story for Congress.

But Republican willingness to bow to White House pressure proves just how little the GOP cares about protecting American election security.

The bill would have given the top election official in each state security clearance to receive information on electoral threats, formalized information sharing between the federal government and the states, mandated an audit of federal elections, and incentivized the purchase of voting machines that leave a paper trail.

Paper records are especially important in case, for instance, a Russian hacker managed to change reported vote counts on the internet.

Now, however, this broadly supported bill has been held up in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill was set up to be marked up and discussed in a Wednesday session of the committee.

But a crucial step to get that process started was canceled with no explanation. The bill could be delayed indefinitely as a result.

It wasn't clear exactly who in the White House put the pressure on, or exactly who in Congress made the decision to block the bill. But Yahoo's sources say that the decision to hold the bill up was made by the White House and executed by Senate Republicans.

Lindsay Walters, a White House spokeswoman, gave Yahoo a vague justification for the White House's opposition to the bill without specifying which parts of it were objectionable.

"We cannot support legislation with inappropriate mandates or that moves power or funding from the states to Washington for the planning and operation of elections," Waulters said.

Despite the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election through hacking and misinformation campaigns, Republicans have refused to act to make sure the same thing doesn't happen again.

Trump has not made it a priority to pressure Russia's Vladimir Putin to stop meddling; Trump even publicly took Putin's side over U.S. intelligence agencies.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans have done little more than give lip service to election security.

In the Senate, all Republicans but one voted against making additional funds available to secure election systems in the states.

Even as security officials continue to warn about the likelihood of cyberattacks on elections, Republicans refuse to act.

The decision to table a bill to address this vital issue — even one proposed and supported by prominent GOP lawmakers — lays bare the overall Republican game plan.

So far, Trump and Republicans have benefited from election interference. Perhaps they want it to stay that way — even if it means compromising American democracy.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.