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No new legislative momentum after election security briefings

Niels Lesniewski, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio emerged from a closed briefing Wednesday on the Trump administration's efforts to secure elections and made a renewed push for his own bipartisan deterrence legislation, even as he acknowledged there has not been momentum.

"In my view, they're doing everything you can do," Rubio said of the administration efforts. "Election interference is a broadly used term, and understand this is psychological warfare. It's designed to weaken America from the inside out, to drive divisions internally so we fight with each other, to undermine our confidence in the elections and in our democracy and particularly to undermine individual candidates either because they don't like that candidate or because they know someone else."

Rubio, a Florida Republican, then plugged the DETER Act, a bipartisan bill he introduced with Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen, that is designed to provide for new sanctions to be imposed against Russia or other adversaries in the event of future interference.

But when asked whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky might provide any floor time, Rubio acknowledged the uphill climb.

"There was interest in it about a year ago and it's obviously died down," Rubio said. "I think there's a little bit of sanctions fatigue around here, but I would add that this is ... prospective sanctions. These are sanctions that would only happen if there's interference.

"I hope we can restart some momentum on it," he said.

 

Separate legislation that has already passed the House would promote the use of paper backup systems in administering elections, but a markup of one such bill was abruptly canceled by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and never rescheduled after facing criticism about undue federal interference.

Chairman Roy Blunt of Missouri said Wednesday that further legislation focused on election security wouldn't be the right thing to do, and he doesn't expect more election legislation to move through his committee.

"Federal involvement in the process, from our national security agencies, particularly the Department of Homeland Security, I think (it's) added a significant element in 2018. And that will be even greater in 2020," he said.

Blunt also said there's general agreement that a paper backup for election systems is a key element of election security going forward.

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