McConnell on Election Security: Real Threats Persist, But We Aren’t ‘Flat-Footed’ Any Longer
‘Fear and division; reduced confidence in our democracy; Americans divided against ourselves. That’s what Russia wants. That’s what China wants. That’s just what our adversaries want to achieve. And it’s exactly what the Democratic Leader helps them achieve when he turns a bipartisan national issue that should unite us into one more pretext for partisan finger-pointing.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding election security:
“Our Democratic colleagues have sought to spend this week discussing election security.
“Well, really, they have sought to discuss anything besides pandemic relief, since their leaders are still blocking bipartisan negotiations that could get a result. So our friends across the aisle have tried to change the subject to election security, or immigration from Venezuela, or anything besides the hundreds of billions of dollars in relief they have filibustered.
“But the integrity of our democracy is a crucial issue. We are fewer than 50 days from November 3rd. Every voter deserves to know their state and local authorities are as well-equipped as possible to oversee fair, safe, and secure elections.
“So let’s discuss the progress made since 2016… the threats still before us… and how poisonous it is when this nonpartisan issue gets hijacked for partisan point-scoring.
“Here’s how the Democratic Vice Chair of the Intelligence Committee described our vulnerability to foreign interference in 2016, during the Obama-Biden administration: ‘We were caught flat-footed.’
“That administration’s relationships with state governments were dysfunctional. Information-sharing was weak. Cross-sector partnerships hardly existed. And eight years of weak foreign policy had emboldened Putin to push the envelope.
“For the last four years, thanks to the actions of this Senate and the leadership of the Trump administration, a huge number of dedicated experts have worked hard to improve our defenses and regain Americans’ trust.
“In 2016, the Department of Homeland Security was on an island. But under this administration, DHS officials have built partnerships with the state and local officials who run our elections, and stood up massive intelligence-sharing efforts that connect them with federal authorities, the Intelligence Community, and the private sector.
“In 2016, the outgoing administration hid their limited grasp of the threat from Congress and the American people. The Trump administration and intelligence experts have been far more transparent.
“In 2016, only 14 state or local authorities had high-tech sensors to detect cyber attacks. Now, all 50 states have them.
“The Trump administration has imposed real pain on Russia -- closing consulates, expelling spies, sanctioning oligarchs and agents of influence, and equipping neighbors that are threatened by Moscow to deter further aggression.
“Here in the Senate, multiple committees have become major players in this effort. Our colleagues on the Intelligence Committee spent years producing their five-part, 1,300-plus-page report on 2016. Some of their bipartisan recommendations are already taking effect.
“And then there’s funding.
“The Senate has led the efforts to set aside more than a billion dollars in extra election assistance, from foreign interference to COVID-19.
“Through the end of the primaries, more than 70% of the huge sum we provided in the CARES Act was still unspent. As recently as a few months ago, more than 60% of the first tranche we provided all the way back in Fiscal 2018 was still unspent. So we have made sure money is no obstacle.
“These threats are still with us. And they have evolved. Not only Russia, but also China, Iran, and other adversaries are looking constantly for ways to interfere in our politics, divide Americans, and erode confidence in our institutions. That’s a fact. The work goes on. But we aren’t flat-footed any longer.
“This progress should be cause for bipartisan celebration. But one side of the aisle seems to prefer pretending there hasn’t been any progress at all.
“Frankly, while nonpartisan experts worked around the clock to fight our adversaries’ destabilizing efforts, too many Democrats have been undermining Americans’ confidence in our democracy to a degree that those adversaries could only dream of.
“Baseless accusations that the last election was stolen. Casual assertions that this one, too, must be illegitimate if they don’t win. On a monthly basis we’ve heard new hysterical pronouncements that our democracy was on death’s door. Even sensitive intelligence became grist for the partisan mill.
“This has not been universal. There has been good bipartisan work in some committees. But the Democratic leadership appeared to make a conscious choice: Instead of treating election security like the unifying, bipartisan issue it ought to be, they would use it as a partisan cudgel to hit the other side.
“Playing right into our adversaries’ hands.
“This week, the Democratic Leader has attacked Republicans and basically questioned our patriotism because we did not rush to meet his latest demands for empty theatrics.
“He proposes to crowd out four years of bipartisan work from actual committees by inventing a brand-new Senate committee and pull experts off the front lines during the home stretch for theatrical hearings on Capitol Hill.
“He says we must allocate even more money… never mind that millions and millions of dollars we’ve already set aside remain unspent.
“He proposes that the Administration pull experts off the front lines to continue briefing him… never mind that ODNI alone has supported 53 election security briefings to Congress since 2018.
“I’m sure 54 will be the magic number that finally makes our colleague a reasonable voice on this issue.
“The truth is, briefings are ongoing, the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees will be briefed next week, and all Senators will have access to written intelligence analysis by career professionals if new developments arise since last month’s All Senate briefings.
“The Democratic Leader’s demands aren’t solutions. These aren’t what the experts say we need. They’re just empty gestures, concocted so the Democratic Leader can complain that Republicans hate democracy and apple pie when we don’t go along with them.
“Remember: Fear and division… reduced confidence in our democracy… Americans divided against ourselves.
“That’s what Russia wants. That’s what China wants. That’s just what our adversaries want to achieve.
“And it’s exactly what the Democratic Leader helps them achieve when he turns a bipartisan national issue that should unite us into one more pretext for partisan finger-pointing.
“Our colleague from New York said recently that, quote, ‘Republicans are the enemy of the good.’
“No. Republicans and Democrats are not enemies. No fellow Americans are enemies.
“Our people, our democracy, have real enemies in some corners of the world.
“I expect they are thrilled to hear our own politicians talking that way.”
Related Issues: National Security