Schumer Floor Remarks Urging Leader McConnell And Senate Republicans To Allow A Vote On The DETER Act, A Bipartisan Election Security Bill

December 10, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor urging Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans to allow a vote on the bipartisan election security DETER Act. Following Senator Chris Van Hollen’s (D-MD) unanimous consent request to pass the critical election security legislation, Republican Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) blocked its passage. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here.

I want to thank my colleague from Maryland for his diligence in this issue of utmost importance to the integrity of our elections, to our national security, and basically for trust in government. If American people feel that a foreign country can interfere in their elections—and particularly, that their president is okay with that—I worry and pray for our democracy.

So for the past few years, Senate Democrats have sought to pass legislation to improve security of elections. There are many ways to do this, hardening our election infrastructure, shoring up cyber defenses, requiring paper ballots. But one of the most important has been advocated with passion and vigor by my colleague from Maryland—and that is deterring foreign adversaries from trying to interfere with elections in the first place.

For the past year, Democrats have been pushing legislation that would do just that—by instituting mandatory cross-cutting sanctions against any adversary (Russia, China, Iran, North Korea) that even dare attempt to meddle in our democracy. It’s a bipartisan idea: Sen. Van Hollen has legislation that is cosponsored by Sen. Rubio.

We tried hard to pass this measure in the annual defense bill. Senate Republicans and Leader McConnell blocked the provision from the final agreement.

So we are here today asking our Republican colleagues to relent and allow this bipartisan legislation to pass the Senate on its own.

Our top national security officials have warned us that our adversaries are right now—right now, as we speak—working on ever more sophisticated methods to meddle in our elections. That’s what Putin does! He doesn’t have the military power or the economic power, but he has long tentacles and clever ways to undermine our democracy…and are we going to stand there benignly and let it happen? That’s outrageous. So why have Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans opposed it?

I hope it is not because the Russian foreign minister is in town this week. I hope it is not because anyone wants to invite foreign interference. I am worried that it is just as my colleague from Maryland said: President Donald Trump, who has shown no regard for rule of law, for fairness, for decency, for honor—if he thinks Russian interference will help him, he says “let’s do it!”

What’s bothersome is that my colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle move forward on his wishes, right to the undermining of our democracy.

I guarantee it, if Leader McConnell were to allow a vote on this legislation, it would pass almost unanimously. Remember, the motion to instruct conferees on NDAA to include this legislation passed nearly unanimously. So I would plead with my good friend—he’s a good man from Idaho, Sen. Crapo—I would plead with Leader McConnell: stop this now. If President Trump is getting you to do this, if the White House is (which I suspect is true), that’s not your duty to this country, and you must put that higher than your duty to President Trump.