House Democrats Pass Election Security Bill While Senate Remains on Sidelines

October 25, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON —House Democrats approved legislation this week to better protect the country’s elections from foreign interference, the third major bill the chamber has passed this year addressing problems that arose in the 2016 presidential election.

The 227-181 vote on Wednesday came months after special counsel Robert Mueller detailed numerous attempts by Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 contest and numerous contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian nationals.

Though Mueller concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to establish that a criminal conspiracy had occurred, House Democrats want there to be no doubt about what’s illegal in the future.

The Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy, or SHIELD Act, requires candidates and political committees notify the FBI and other authorities if a foreign power offers campaign help.

It also tightens restrictions on campaign spending by foreign nationals and requires more transparency in political ads on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

It also specifically prohibits campaigns from exchanging campaign-related information with foreign governments and their agents.

“Foreign interests shouldn’t be able to influence American elections, period,” said Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., chairman of the New Democrat Coalition.

The coalition endorsed the bill and several provisions introduced by its members.

“With countless intelligence assessments confirming vulnerabilities in the American election system, and another election just over a year away, it’s vital that both sides of the aisle come together to take real action to fix the loopholes and protect our elections from foreign interference,” Kilmer said.

“I’m glad to see the inclusion of the NDC-endorsed Honest Ads Act and the PAID AD Act, as well as other New Dem-led bills, included in this legislation. Congress should take action to further protect our democracy without delay,” he added.

Among the provisions added by the coalition were H.R. 2592, The Honest Ads Act, introduced by Kilmer himself, which would improve the transparency of online political advertisements.

They also included:

  • H.R. 3873, PAID AD Act, introduced by Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., which would prohibit foreign entities from purchasing political ads to influence American elections;
  • H.R. 4612, Firewall Act, introduced by Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., which would amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to prohibit foreign nationals from paying for online advertisements created to attack or support federal candidates;
  • H.R. 3236, Component of Anti-Collusion Act, introduced by Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., which would define offering non-public campaign materials, such as internal polling data, to a foreign power, or agent of a foreign power, as an illegal solicitation of support;
  • H.R. 3281, Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act, introduced by Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Va., which would impose penalties on those who knowingly spread false information or use abusive or deceptive practices to manipulate or influence a federal election; and
  • Rep. Tom Suozzi’s FEC Post-Election Audit would require an FEC audit after every federal election to determine if foreign money was spent.

The SHIELD Act’s chief sponsor, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said it would close loopholes that allow dishonest behavior, increase disclosure and transparency requirements, and ensure that anyone who engages with foreign actors to influence the outcome of an election will be held accountable by law.

“Most Americans know that foreign governments have no business interfering in our elections,” said Lofgren, who chairs the House Administration Committee, in a written statement. “Instead, the Trump campaign and White House have welcomed and repeatedly solicited foreign assistance for his political activities. This behavior is unacceptable, and it is telling that the White House has gone to great lengths to hide it from the American people.

“The SHIELD Act will protect our elections from foreign interference by closing loopholes that allow dishonest behavior, increasing disclosure and transparency requirements, and ensuring that individuals engaging in conduct with foreign actors intending to influence the outcome of our elections will be held accountable by law,” she said.

The White House has threatened to veto the bill if it reaches the president’s desk, saying it was redundant, overly broad and unenforceable.

The House approved a separate bill in June that would require paper ballots in federal elections and authorize $775 million in grants over the next two years to help states secure their voting systems.

Lawmakers also approved a bill in March aimed at reducing the role of big money in politics, ensuring fair elections and strengthening ethics standards. The measure would make it easier for people to register and vote, tighten election security and require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.

Republicans called the bill a power grab that amounts to a federal takeover of elections and could cost billions of dollars. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the proposal was dead on arrival in the Senate.

McConnell has also refused to bring up a stand-alone bill on election security, though he supported an effort to send $250 million in additional election security funds to states to shore up their systems ahead of 2020.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. lamented Republicans intransigence on the issue.

“With today’s passage of the SHIELD Act,” Hoyer said in a statement released Wednesday “House Republicans had yet another opportunity to join House Democrats in voting to protect our country against foreign interference. It is shameful that they refused to do so, just like they have refused to answer the pressing question facing the country: is it acceptable for a president to encourage foreign interference in our elections?

“The answer is no. Having already passed H.R. 1 and the SAFE Act, House Democrats will continue taking every opportunity to ensure that Russia and other foreign entities cannot meddle in our democracy,” he said.

“President Trump has already made clear to the American people that he believes there is nothing wrong with electoral candidates accepting help from foreign adversaries, which is shameful,” Hoyer said. “If Sen. McConnell agrees with him, he can continue blocking House legislation to confront this challenge, but if the Republican-controlled Senate believes our democracy ought to be safeguarded, I urge them to take action on the SHIELD Act and other House-passed bills to protect Americans’ votes.”

2020 Elections

Hoyer, Durbin Aides Named to Biden Legislative Affairs Team
Political News
Hoyer, Durbin Aides Named to Biden Legislative Affairs Team
November 23, 2020
by Dan McCue

WILMINGTON, Del. - President-elect Joe Biden has selected top aides to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Senate Democratic Whip Richard Durbin to serve in key roles on his White House legislative affairs team. Shuwanza Goff, who has been serving as Majority Leader Hoyer's floor director... Read More

Biden Makes History Nominating First Latino Homeland Security Chief, First Woman to Head Intelligence
Political News
Biden Makes History Nominating First Latino Homeland Security Chief, First Woman to Head Intelligence
November 23, 2020
by Dan McCue

WILMINGTON, Del. - President-elect Joe Biden unveiled several of his top national security picks on Monday, his campaign revealing he will nominate Avril Haines to be his director of national intelligence and Alejandro Mayorkas, to be his secretary of Homeland Security. In both cases, the nominations... Read More

Harris’s Designer Joins Panel on Politics and Fashion
In The News
Harris’s Designer Joins Panel on Politics and Fashion
November 23, 2020
by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON — From the moment Vice President-elect Kamala Harris walked out onto the stage in Delaware for her victory speech, more than just her words were making a political statement. Dressed in a white pantsuit from Carolina Herrera, analysts immediately began to suggest that she was... Read More

Gov. Murphy Announces $161 Million in Grants for NJ Municipalities
State News
Gov. Murphy Announces $161 Million in Grants for NJ Municipalities
November 23, 2020
by Sara Wilkerson

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy recently announced that the New Jersey Department of Transportation will be awarding $161.25 million in municipal aid grants to advance road, bridge, safety, and quality-of-life improvements. Over 540 cities and towns throughout the state will benefit from the grant funds.  “These... Read More

Election Disinformation Fears Came True for State Officials
State News
Election Disinformation Fears Came True for State Officials

The disinformation scenario that local election officials feared months ago has come true: President Donald Trump's false claims of voter fraud have been picked up by many state and local Republican officials across the country, and polls now show that more than two-thirds of GOP voters believe the 2020 election... Read More

US Vaccine Train Won't be Derailed, Warp Speed Leader Says
Health
US Vaccine Train Won't be Derailed, Warp Speed Leader Says

Efforts to speedily develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. won't be derailed by a change in administration, said the head of Operation Warp Speed, the federal government's program aimed at accelerating a COVID-19 jab. "All decisions are made, the train is running. Whether one administration... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top