Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked legislation that would force campaigns to notify the Federal Election Commission and the FBI about attempts by foreign national to influence an election.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tried to pass the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act by unanimous consent, but was blocked Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.).
“This legislation is pretty simple, even for this body, it would require any presidential campaign that receives offers of assistance from an agent of a foreign government, has an obligation to report that offer of assistance to law enforcement, specifically the FBI,” Warner said from the Senate floor.
Warner’s bill would require campaign officials to report contacts with foreign nationals who are trying to make campaign donations or coordinate with the campaign to the Federal Election Commission, which would, in turn, notify the FBI.
According to Senate rules, any one senator can ask for unanimous consent to pass a bill or approve a nomination. But the request can be blocked if one senator objects.
Sen. Blackburn objected to Warner’s unanimous consent request, saying the reporting requirements within the legislation go “overboard.”
“The UC that was presented is overboard, and this is something that should be done in a thoughtful way. It should be done in a bipartisan way,” Blackburn said.
Warner fired back at Blackburn’s reading of his legislation as being “not accurate.”
“The only thing that would have to be reported is if an agent of a foreign government or a foreign national offered something that was already prohibited,” he added.
The heated exchange on the Senate floor came less than 24 hours after President Trump told ABC News that he was open to looking at information about a political opponent even if it was offered by a foreign government.
“I think you might want to listen. There’s nothing wrong with listening,” he told ABC. “It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go, maybe, to the FBI.”
“This White House and this president doesn’t seem to appreciate the seriousness of the threat,” Warner said from the Senate floor.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said senators would again attempt to pass the legislation.
“When a president feels it’s more important to win an election than conduct a fair election, we’re a step further away from democracy and toward autocracy. That’s what dictators believe, winning at all cost,” he added.