House Republicans and Democrats clashed over increased money for election security in the leadup to the midterm elections, as the chamber passed an appropriations bill Thursday without Democrats’ proposal of additional funding for an agency aimed at improving and protecting US elections.
Democrats sought more money for states to protect their election infrastructures from threats, mainly citing Russia. But Republicans argue that there’s more than enough resources currently available and there is no urgent need for further funding.
On Wednesday, several House Democrats attempted to make a unanimous consent request to demand that Republicans hold a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat, that would add $380 million more for election security. However, their efforts came to naught.
In a vote of 217-199 Thursday, the House approved the appropriations bill for the Interior Department, environment and related agencies for fiscal year 2019, which excluded the proposed additional funding for the Election Assistance Commission. And a vote later for a last-minute attempt to add the amendment to the bill also failed.
Democrats argued the proof for more funding is in the wake of 12 Russians military officials indicted for alleged election hacking and President Donald Trump’s performance during a news conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, in which he was largely deferential to the Russian leader.
“The Russians attacked our democracy. They will be back and we are not ready,” Quigley said on the House floor Thursday, adding that “now is the time to double down on our efforts to prevent election hacking.”
Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, argued this amendment allowed states to “slam the door in the face of the Russia bear or any other adversary who seeks to steal the integrity of our elections.”
“Surely we can rise above pandering to party and Putin to act on behalf of our freedom and our security,” Hoyer said to cheers from Democrats.
Following Hoyer’s speech, chants of “USA” broke out among Democrats in the House chamber.
House Republicans countered Wednesday by saying there is adequate funding available for states that request it.
“There’s no crisis. There is help available. States have an opportunity for the resources necessary to make sure what all American people want, that our elections are held with the utmost honesty and integrity,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Washington Republican.
Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, the chairman of the House Rules committee, also argued that “there is not, at this time, a request necessary for more money.”
Both Republicans pointed to the Help America Vote Act, passed by Congress in 2002 in the wake of the 2000 presidential election, and the $380 million for election security included in the $1.3 trillion spending bill passed in March.
Newhouse said that nearly 40% of the 2018 funds still have not been doled out to states.
During a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Trump was asked whether Russia is still targeting the US and replied “no.” Later, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the President was not disputing intelligence findings, but instead was declining to further answer any questions.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the US intelligence community has assessed Russia and other countries are continuing their attempts to breach US systems.
“The warning signs are there. The system is blinking,” Coats said last weekend.“It is why I believe we are at a critical point.”