Senate Republicans are continuing their total blockade of proposals for combatting foreign interference in American campaigns, signaling they won't be moved by a new Democratic effort to use President Trump's impeachment to shame them into action.
Democrats on Tuesday afternoon called up three of their top-priority election security bills they view as the least controversial, asking the Senate to pass them immediately on voice votes. Each time they were blocked by a single Republican, who under the rules could prevent further action.
The choreographed standoff underscores how the politically divided Congress is on course to do nothing more before Election Day to address perhaps the single the most pressing challenge to democracy: foreign adversaries armed with disinformation campaigns and hacking skills wresting control of a presidential contest away from the voters.
President Trump's proposed budget for next year includes a mix of good and bad news for those interested in democracy and elections.
The plan he unveiled Monday would cut spending 14 percent at the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency tasked with making sure voting machines are reliable and therefore at the center of efforts to prevent foreign hacking. The $2 million reduction for the fiscal year starting in October would come just as the office is starting to recover after a long run of staffing and budget cuts.
At the same time, the budget calls for spending $1.1 billion on cybersecurity through the Department of Homeland Security. This would increase from 1,800 to more than 6,500 the number of network assessments the agency can conduct, including those of "state and local electoral systems," the budget proposal says.
Seven Democrats have been invited on stage for Friday night's debate ahead of the New Hampshire primary, including three who have vowed that their first legislative priority as president would be enacting an ambitious clean government package.
Town hall meetings and candidate coffees in the first primary state have for months featured discussions about expanding voting rights, curbing money in politics and overhauling such bedrock government institutions as the Supreme Court, the Electoral College and the Senate filibuster. But the disagreements among the candidates have been subtle, and so there's no reason to believe the moderators will find new flashpoints or cleave new divisions on democracy reform topics at the debate, being conducted at Saint Anselm College in Manchester at 8 pm Eastern.
The table below shows where the seven candidates stand on 17 of the most prominent proposals for improving the way democracy works — in areas of campaign finance, access to the ballot box, election security, political ethics and revamping our governing systems.
It's been a decade since the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, paving the way for an ocean of unregulated and secretive campaign spending. Proponents of tighter restrictions had their first chance on Thursday to tell the House why amending the Constitution is the best way to reverse the multibillion-dollar trend — but the subcommittee hearing looks to be all they get for a while.
The so-called Democracy For All amendment has been introduced in the House and Senate in all six Congresses since the Supreme Court's landmark decision. Each time, Democrats have been joined by one Republican at most in backing the proposal — signaling the government is nowhere close to "overturning" Citizens United v. FEC by making the 28th constitutional alteration.
The two-hour hearing did nothing to alter that reality. In fact, the chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Democrat Steve Cohen of Tennessee, said nothing about reconvening someday to hold the first necessary vote.