Republicans in the House of Representatives have put forward a spending bill that excludes new money for election security grants to states, causing an outcry from furious Democrats.
Amid a firestorm of controversy about President Trump’s denial of Russian election interference there was an expectation that the House would fund a bipartisan approach that would help states protect themselves from cyber attacks and other threats to election security.
“House GOP refuses to renew election security funding as Democrats fume over Russian meddling”
House GOP refuses to renew election security funding as Democrats fume over Russian meddling https://t.co/uGdtOZWT9A
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) July 19, 2018
The funding controversy surrounds an established grants program run by the federal Election Assistance Commission. This program helps states administer their elections and it also improves state voting systems, most of which are seriously out of date.
Democrats expected that the House would continue funding the grants program through at least 2019, but House Republicans yesterday said the program is “fully funded.” As a result, GOP members are not willing to add more money to the program despite highly publicized needs on the part of the states to protect elections from Russian hacking.
Republicans argued Wednesday night in a debate on the House floor that the states have enough money from prior allocations to meet their needs for election improvements.
Democrats, however, said that Republicans are “aiding and abetting” Trump by refusing to recognize risks of Russian hacking and to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The American people should be very worried about the commitment of this president and his Republican allies in Congress to securing our elections,” said Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.). “This is a party that has worked with this administration to undermine and minimize the investigation surrounding Russian interference in our presidential election.”
But the GOP chairman of the House Rules Committee, Pete Sessions of Texas, said that arguments from Democrats were “shrewd political shenanigans that have no merit.”
Sessions pointed out that Congress has already spent more than $3.5 billion over the years and “could spend more” depending on the conclusions of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation or how the November midterm elections go.
“Maybe the special counsel will announce something in two weeks: ‘Oh, here’s what the Russian indictments really are.’ If we learn something, authorizing committees will come right back to it and we’ll go to it,” Sessions said. “But there is no new data or information, it’s at the end of 3½ billion dollars, and there are no requests.”
Democrats said the Republicans’ explanations were not persuasive, and that the need for election security funding has never been greater than it is today. On Wednesday Trump further inflamed Democratic passions when he declared that in his opinion Russia was no longer targeting the United States, which is completely contrary to the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community.
On Wednesday night a dozen Democrats went to the House floor to demand a vote on an amendment to the 2019 spending bill to add $380 million in election security funding, but their efforts failed.
Once again Republicans in the House have shown that they are more interested in protecting Donald Trump than they are in protecting the American people from a hijacking of their democracy by Vladimir Putin.