Senate Republicans blocked two election security bills and a cybersecurity measure on Wednesday shortly after former special counsel Robert Mueller warned Congress about potential Russian election interference.
The bills would have required campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission about offers of assistance from foreign countries, as well as a bill to let the Senate Sergeant at Arms offer voluntary cyber assistance for personal devices and accounts of senators and staff.
Democrats tried to get consent to pass the bills, but Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) blocked them.
She didn’t give reason for her objections, reports The Hill. The publication noted that under Senate rules, any one senator can ask for consent to pass a bill, but any one senator is able to object.
Asked whether Russia would attempt to attack future U.S. elections, as it did in 2016, Mueller warned Congress earlier in the day that “they’re doing it as we sit here.”
“Our committee issued a report and insight on saying that Russian active measures are growing with frequency and intensity, and including their expanded use of groups such as the IRA, and these groups pose a significant threat to the United States and our allies in upcoming elections, would you agree with that?” House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) asked Mueller.
Mueller agreed, adding “many more countries are developing the capability to replicate what the Russians have done.”
“Did you think that this was a single attempt by the Russians to get involved in our election? Or did you find evidence to suggest they’ll try to do this again?” Hurd asked.
“It wasn’t a single attempt, they’re doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign,” Mueller said.
Mueller recommended generally that intelligence and law enforcement agencies should work together in response to the threat.
“They should use the full resources that we have to address this,” Mueller said.
Democrats cited Mueller’s warning as they tried to get consent on Wednesday evening to pass their bills.
“Mr. Mueller’s testimony should serve as a warning to every member of this body about what could happen in 2020, literally in our next elections,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
He added that “unfortunately, in the nearly three years since we uncovered Russia’s attack on our democracy, this body has not held a single vote on stand-alone legislation to protect our elections.”
“If a foreign adversary tries to offer assistance to your campaign, your response should not be ‘thank you.’ Your response should be a moral obligation to tell the FBI,” he said.