Senate Must Act on Securing America’s Elections
Last week, the FBI – along with six other government agencies – issued an urgent warning about America’s election security. “Our adversaries want to undermine our democratic institutions, influence public sentiment, and affect government policies,” the agencies said, adding that “Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions.” In fact, earlier this year, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that foreign interference in our democracy is “a 365-day-a-year threat.” With the 2020 elections fast approaching, that threat is only growing.
We must remember that this is about more than any one election or president – this is about the national security of our country. Our adversaries around the world understand that while they cannot match the strength of our resolve, they can take advantage of our freedom by undermining our elections, pitting us against one another, and weakening the ties that bind us together as Americans. We cannot let that happen.
Last month, I was proud to vote yes on H.R. 4617, the Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy (SHIELD) Act, a bill that aims to crack down on foreign money and influence in our elections. The SHIELD Act contains commonsense, bipartisan reforms that will fight foreign interference and foreign activity in our elections. It requires campaigns to report foreign offers of assistance, like those made during the 2016 elections, to the FBI. It closes loopholes that allow foreign nationals and foreign governments to spend money in U.S. elections. It improves transparency of online political advertisements, prohibits the exchange of non-public campaign information between candidates and foreign agents, and bans spreading deceptive practices and misinformation about voting.
Believe it or not, the SHIELD Act is the third major bill that House Democrats have passed to protect our voting systems from foreign interference. When the 116th Congress began, our first order of business was passing H.R. 1, the For The People Act, to get big money out of politics and strengthen campaign finance oversight. Shortly after that, we passed H.R. 2722, the Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act, to improve ballot box security and modernize our election infrastructure to prevent hacking.
I’m deeply disappointed that House Republicans voted against all three of these bills to secure our elections from foreign influence. And I’m even more disappointed that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has already said that he won’t even allow an up or down vote on them in the Senate. The American people deserve better.
In his farewell address, President George Washington warned his fellow citizens that, “foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.” Today, we find ourselves at a moment of grave consequence, staring down such a foe. Foreign interference is happening right now. The alarm bells are ringing—unless we take swift action, our adversaries will continue to attack our elections and attempt to undermine our democracy.
We have no time to waste. I sincerely hope that Leader McConnell does the right thing, puts his constitutional obligations ahead of his fealty to this president, and brings these important bills up for a vote. In the meantime, I urge all Americans to continue to demand congressional action on this important issue. Our elections should be decided by Americans—and Americans alone.