Bill Package, Letter to President Urge Election Security as Funding Hopes Dashed

House Democrats led by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., on Thursday introduced a suite of bills aimed at countering Russian interference in American elections, just moments after House Republicans voted down an amendment to provide $380 million in grants to improve state election security.

The Secure America from Russian Interference Act of 2018, introduced by Hoyer and cosponsored by a bipartisan group in House, is a collection of 18 pieces of proposed legislation to rein in Russian influence, and references hostile actions by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, as well as support of regimes in Syria and Iran.

But a partisan divide over alleged Russian meddling is casting doubt over consideration of the bill package. The House on Thursday voted down an amendment proposed by Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., to HR 6147, the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2019, which would have added $380 million for state election grants overseen by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The broader spending bill was passed Thursday absent the additional funding, and opponents dismissed the move, saying that sufficient election security funding has been made available.

With attention clearly ratcheted up on protecting election security infrastructure, Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., sent a letter to President Trump on Thursday urging him “to immediately appoint an Election Security Coordinator within the Executive Office of the President to oversee and organize election security efforts across the Federal governments.”

Rice initially called for the appointment on Monday, in light of several indictments of Russian nationals implicated in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling. Rice said this is evidence that a top official needs to be appointed to unify government-wide efforts.

“While there are multiple Federal agencies working to combat foreign influence and electronic hacking, there is no one in charge of coordinating their efforts to ensure they are successful,” Rice said. “We cannot have such a dispersed and piecemeal approach to this pressing threat. We need to have someone at the highest level of government who is responsible for bringing our Federal agencies together to counter all forms of election interference in an organized and concerted manner.”

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