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Schumer slams McConnell for blocking election security legislation

McConnell, with GOP Senate leaders, just "stands there and twiddles their thumbs and almost says, ‘Come on Putin, let it happen," the minority leader said.
Image: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives to speak with reporters at the Capitol on June 11, 2019.
Schumer on Tuesday criticized McConnell's comments last week claiming an "absence of problems in the 2018 election."J. Scott Applewhite / AP file

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Tuesday slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for blocking legislation that would protect U.S. elections from future interference, including by foreign governments.

“It is irresponsible for the Republican leader to declare 'mission accomplished' about the 2018 elections,” Schumer told reporters on Capitol Hill, speaking about McConnell's remark in which he claimed an absence of problems in last year's midterms.

“The Republican Senate, Leader McConnell just stands there and twiddles their thumbs and almost says, ‘Come on Putin, let it happen,'” said Schumer, who added that any leader in Congress who doesn’t work to protect the nation’s elections is “abdicating their responsibilities to our grand democracy.”

In an effort to push election security measures, Democrats have a three-pronged strategy, Schumer said.

First, lawmakers will press McConnell to allow debate on legislation that’s been introduced by holding standalone votes on those bills. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, for example, called for a unanimous consent vote on his legislation last week that would legally require a presidential campaign to notify the FBI about foreign interference, but Republicans blocked it.

Second, Democrats plan to press McConnell to allow votes on amendments for the 2020 defense policy bill that the Senate will consider this week that deal with election interference, which Schumer called a “national security issue.”

Finally, the Democratic leader said that he will also push for election security funding as part of negotiations for a two-year deal to lift spending ceilings.

“It’s hard to come up with any good reason why anyone should block this,” Schumer said. “I am befuddled and at a loss.”

In addition to Warner’s bill, three Senate Democrats — Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Dianne Feinstein of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — have introduced a bill on election security, and Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced a bill that would implement sanctions if Russia interferes in the 2020 elections. Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have also proposed a sanctions bill.

The latest push comes after President Donald Trump said in a TV interview last week that he would be willing to accept information on a campaign opponent from a foreign government.

McConnell said then that he would allow for an all-Senate briefing on election security, but downplayed the urgency of the situation. “I do think the missing story that very few of you have written about is the absence of problems in the 2018 election," he said. "I think the Trump administration did a much, much better job.”