Important Work Continues to Keep Our Elections Secure
‘Congress will certainly continue to monitor this closely, while resisting any efforts to use the failures of the past to justify sweeping federalizations of election law, as some on the other side have consistently sought to do. Make no mistake: many of the proposals labeled by Democrats to be “election security” measures are indeed election reform measures that are part of the left’s wish list I’ve called the Democrat Politician Protection Act.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the importance of election security:
“Yesterday, the entire Senate had the opportunity to meet in classified session for a briefing on election security. We heard from the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI Director, the Acting Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, and other key administration officials about our recent progress and ongoing work to protect our democratic process from interference.
“The takeaway was clear: After 2016, this new administration kicked into high gear. Alongside our efforts in Congress, all levels of government worked proactively to make sure that 2018 was not a repeat of 2016. And far from letting up, the executive branch is continuing to work hard in advance of next year’s presidential election. We know our adversaries won’t be letting up and so we aren’t letting up either.
“I want to underscore my appreciation for the tremendous work that so many officials across our government have been doing to protect our democracy and impose costs on adversaries who dare to interfere. Threats remain, but yesterday’s briefing was an instructive counterpoint to the doom and gloom hyperbole we often see in the media. Good news doesn’t sell newspapers. But although I doubt it will get much coverage, I am proud of the work our government has done to shore up our defenses of American democracy and deter foreign influence and interference. I believe my colleagues feel the same way. At one point during yesterday’s briefing, applause broke out in the room for the work one of our agencies is doing. Bipartisan applause.
“Many of the details of yesterday’s briefing were obviously classified and should remain so. But much of what was discussed were the specific details and the full impacts of steps that are already public knowledge. Here in Congress we’ve taken legislative action to enhance interagency coordination on cybersecurity, expedite security clearances for election officials, and allocate hundreds of millions of dollars in direct aid to state election officials.
“With the new resources that we provided, the Department of Homeland Security dramatically strengthened its information-sharing and security partnerships with the state and local authorities that operate elections in the United States. Participation came from all 50 states and 1,400 localities. And the direct aid to states helped the authorities who are on the front lines of conducting elections update their systems, strengthen their defenses, and maintain vigilance. These and other actions have been part of a coordinated, government-wide, federal, state, and local campaign to shore up our defenses. I would anticipate that every member who attended the classified briefing likely came away feeling confident that big steps forward have taken place in the last two and a half years.
“Thanks in large part to these efforts, the 2018 elections went more smoothly than 2016. And as we look to 2020, it is encouraging to learn how seriously the administration is taking the threat and proactively working to counter it. Because we know the threat is not going anywhere. Foreign adversaries are going to keep at it. So I’m glad the administration is so focused on staying strong and remaining vigilant.
“But of course, as I said yesterday, the roots of this issue run deeper than just our elections themselves. A foreign adversary like Russia didn’t just wake up one day in 2016 and decide to interfere in American democracy. The meddling was the outgrowth of a long pattern of weakness and naivete that permeated all eight years of the Obama administration. So punching back against this misbehavior, and deterring future episodes like it, has also meant taking broad steps to strengthen America’s posture abroad and get more realistic about our relationship with Russia.
“Obviously nearly 30 Russians and Russian corporations have been indicted by the Special Counsel for election meddling. More broadly, we have a new National Security Strategy. An improved road map for our global presence that takes seriously the need to check great-power competitors like Russia and China. We’re recommitting to the alliances that preserve American values around the world, reforming NATO to meet 21st century threats, and equipping our allies and partners who are on the front lines of Russia’s geopolitical prospecting. And Congress and the administration have worked together to restore our armed forces and unwind harmful funding restrictions that had cut readiness and limited our commanders. So not just our efforts on election security, but really, our entire foreign policy, has made great strides under the leadership of this administration.
“To conclude, yesterday’s briefing made it clear that our work has led to huge progress. But the work certainly isn’t over. Leaders across government are continuing to explore and repair potential vulnerabilities and increase cooperation ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Congress will certainly continue to monitor this closely, while resisting any efforts to use the failures of the past to justify sweeping federalizations of election law, as some on the other side have consistently sought to do.
“Make no mistake: many of the proposals labeled by Democrats to be ‘election security’ measures are indeed election reform measures that are part of the left’s wish list I’ve called the Democrat Politician Protection Act. They ignore the great work this administration has done and sweep under the rug the necessary measures this chamber has passed. But, speaking broadly, I think all Americans should remember this: What Russia really set out to do was sow division, spark doubt, and trigger a crisis of confidence in our country that would extend far beyond the actual actions they undertook.
“So as I’ve said before, as we continue taking action and shoring up our defenses, it’s also vital that we not fall into precisely the trap that Putin and company have laid. It’s vital that Americans not take the bait on fear and division and ultimately do Russia’s work for them. Our country is strong. American democracy is strong. Our elections are already safer and more secure. And the important work continues. Our adversaries won’t let up and so we are not letting up either.”
Related Issues: Russia, Campaigns & Elections