Leader McConnell Blocks Schumer Attempt To Pass Bipartisan, House- Passed Legislation To Secure U.S. Elections

July 25, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today went to the Senate floor to make a unanimous consent request to immediately pass the Securing America's Federal Elections Act (SAFE Act) HR2722, which is bipartisan, House-passed election security legislation necessary to secure our democracy ahead of the 2020 elections. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) objected to the request blocking this critical election security legislation, even after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s warning that Russia continues to launch unprecedented operations to interfere in American elections “as we sit here.” Following Sen. Schumer’s request, Leader McConnell also blocked Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s  unanimous consent request that the Senate pass his Duty to Report Act – legislation to help protect our elections from foreign interference by requiring federal campaign officials to notify law enforcement if offered assistance by agents of another government.

Below are Leader Schumer’s remarks, which can also be found here:

Now, I have a unanimous consent request. I know my colleague from Connecticut has one as well, indifference to the Leader’s schedule. I will speak for a few minutes on mine then I will yield to Senator Blumenthal will speak for a few minutes on his, and then we will wait for the Leader, he’s supposed to come out in five minutes to object if he so chooses. Okay? We’ll make the request after that.

So now Mr. President, yesterday, everybody heard Special Counsel Mueller. And there was a lot of dispute about obstruction of justice and things like that. There was virtually no dispute about two facts that Mueller said. One: the Russians interfered with our election in 2016. And two: they plan to do it in 2020.

We rise to the floor because when Russia, any foreign power, seeks to interfere in our elections, it eats at the well springs of our democracy. The Founding Fathers in their wisdom said that one the greatest threat to our democracy was foreign interference. And now we’re faced with the specter of it and we are asking our Republican colleagues to join with us in doing everything we can to stop it. This is serious stuff.

Mr. Mueller said yesterday, “[Russian interference] wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign.” That’s Robert Mueller, one of the most authoritative voices on this issue. Mueller warned that “much more needs to be done” to fortify against future attacks, not just from Russia, but from others looking to interfere in our elections as well.

And Mr. Mueller is not the only one calling for action on election security. FBI Director Wray, appointed by President Trump, has said the same. National Intelligence Director Coats, also appointed by President Trump, has stressed that foreign actors will “add new tactics as they learn [from 2016].”

So we must do more. This is not a Democratic issue, a Republican issue, this is not a liberal issue, a moderate issue, a conservative issue, this is an issue of patriotism, of national security. Of protecting the very integrity of American democracy, something so many of our forbearers died for. And what do we hear from the Republican side? Nothing. There is no credence to the claim by the Leader that we’ve already done enough in this chamber. Mueller, Wray, Coats all said we need to do more. All of them.

Here in the Senate, the Senate Intelligence Committee—led by Mr. Burr of North Carolina, a Republican—has recommended we do more. They too say otherwise. Yet Leader McConnell and the Republican majority refuse to do anything.

So, in a moment, I’m going to ask the Senate’s unanimous consent to pass legislation that safeguards our elections.

  • This legislation passed the House nearly a month ago. It would provide immediate resources for states to modernize their election infrastructure and establish a consistent funding stream to maintain it. The states say they need more money.
  • It would require the use of paper ballots. Almost every expert agrees that that is needed to protect our elections from manipulation. Because if they manipulate the machines, the paper ballots will be a safeguard.
  • It would require states to conduct post-election risk-limiting audits.
  • And it would shore up the cybersecurity of voting systems and ensure that election technology vendors are held to the highest standards so the Russians or anyone else can hack into these machines and interfere.

These are not revolutionary changes. They are the basic, commonsense steps to greatly improve the security of our elections after President Putin conducted a systematic attack on our democracy. And he intends to do it again. The House has passed this bill already. We could deliver it to the president today.

Now, the Republican leader has already indicated his intention to bury this bill in the legislative graveyard. That’s a disgrace. That would be as if we said “We don’t need a military, we don’t need ships off our shores or planes in the air.” Attacks on our elections are a greatest threat to our national security as any other. And yet, for reasons inexplicable, the Republican leader refuses to bring legislation to the floor. Legislation that has been crafted in a bipartisan way. Many of the bills that are before us had Democratic and Republican sponsors. And if the rumors are true, the leader urged the Republicans to back off.

There are only two inferences—neither good. One is, the Republican side doesn’t care about interference in our elections. And the other is, they want it cause maybe they think it will benefit them. I know that President Trump doesn’t like to talk about this—he childishly thinks this will cast aspersions on the legitimacy of his election. That’s sort of a very babyish and selfish thing to think when our security is at risk.  But where are our Republican colleagues when our national security is threatened? Where are our Republican colleagues? If we invite the Russians to interfere by not doing enough, and they do, and Americans lose faith. And the fundamental wellspring of America, our grand democracy; this is the beginning of the end of democracy in this country.

As George Washington and James Madison and Benjamin Franklin warned us, we must do all we can to prevent foreign interference in our elections. By allowing this UC request to go through we will be taking a giant first step, and I hope the leader goes along. And again, if he says the states don’t need it, the states say they do. They’re the judge. I will be asking my request in a minute, but first let me yield to Senator Blumenthal who will also have a UC request.

[Sens. Blumenthal, McConnell speak. McConnell objects.]

Mr. President, just for a moment—there are bipartisan bills on this issue which the Republican majority has objected to. I would say to my friend the Majority Leader: if he doesn’t like this bill, let’s put another bill on the floor and debate it. But so far we have done nothing, absolutely nothing in this chamber to protect our country and its election security. I yield the floor. 

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