The second sentence of the Mueller report states clearly that “the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” The Senate, however, doesn’t plan to do anything about it.
According to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), election security legislation is not on the agenda. “At this point I don’t see any likelihood that those bills would get to the floor if we mark them up,” Blunt said in a Senate Rules Committee meeting Wednesday. “I think the majority leader is of the view that this debate reaches no conclusion. And frankly, I think the extreme nature of H.R. 1 from the House makes it even less likely we are going to have that debate.”
H.R. 1, known as the “For the People Act,” is a massive election reform bill that House Democrats passed earlier this year. Republican lawmakers and their conservative supporters have opposed the legislation, in part because it would add a lot of transparency to campaign funding, and in part because its crackdowns on voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering would dismantle the unfair advantages Republicans hold in many parts of the country.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has insisted that he won’t even allow a vote on the bill in the Senate, describing it as a “radical, half-baked socialist proposal.” But McConnell isn’t allowing votes on any legislation. As ThinkProgress recently reported, the Senate has not considered any matters whatsoever in recent months aside from confirming President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees.
Reached for comment specifically about election security legislation, McConnell’s office referred The Hill to his “case closed” comments from last week regarding the Mueller report. In those remarks, McConnell blamed the Obama administration for allowing Russia to get away with its interference. “With an exhaustive investigation complete, would the country finally unify to confront the real challenges before us? Would we finally be able to move on from partisan paralysis and breathless conspiracy theorizing?” he asked. “Or would we remain consumed by unhinged partisanship, and keep dividing ourselves to the point that Putin and his agents need only stand on the sidelines and watch as their job is done for them?”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) countered those remarks by suggesting, “If the leader is sincere, then put election security on the floor.” That clearly isn’t happening.
McConnell’s comments in no way explain why the Senate won’t take up legislation to bolster election security. The Mueller report was unequivocal in its conclusions about Russia’s interference.
One explanation could be that McConnell simply doesn’t share the same concern about election security. While McConnell was quick to blame President Barack Obama for the Russians’ interference, there has been finger-pointing in both directions. Last year, former Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough directly accused McConnell of not acting urgently enough to respond to election security concerns in 2016. McConnell responded, “I’m perfectly comfortable with the steps that were taken back then.” But former Vice President Joe Biden had also described McConnell as skeptical, saying he wouldn’t support a bipartisan statement that directly blamed Russia for interfering.
Since 2010, funding for the Election Assistance Commission has actually been cut in half, meaning far fewer resources dedicated to developing secure voting systems and distributing election funding to states. According to its chairperson, Christy McCormick, the agency now only has 22 staff members working to provide election security support to the entire country.
Blunt’s confirmation of the Senate’s inevitable inaction comes just days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) confirmed that Russian hackers accessed voter databases in two Florida counties during the 2016 election.