U.S. intelligence agencies agree on the importance of improving election security. But like with most other policy issues that could be on the table this year, politics is getting in the way of any solutions.
As the McClatchy DC Bureau reported, "partisanship has all but killed any chance that Congress will pass legislation to shore up election security before voters cast their ballots next year."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has slammed the door on any vote on House Democrats' political overhaul legislation, which includes election security measures that would provide grant funding for states to upgrade voting equipment, train election officials on cybersecurity and conduct post-election audits.
McConnell's opposition to the House-passed bill, known as HR 1, has less to do with his aversion to election security, however, than his distaste for the bill's other proposals, such as new campaign finance restrictions.
And yet, Republican leadership appears to be lukewarm on a different Senate bill focused solely on election security — one that has bipartisan support.
The Secure Elections Act introduced last year aims to improve cybersecurity information-sharing between federal agencies and state election officials, offer election-security grants and provide security clearances to state election officials. The bill was authored by Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California.
Despite bipartisan backing, the legislation has hit a brick wall in the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over election security legislation.
Rules Chairman Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, said he has no plans to discuss the bill because McConnell is not inclined to bring up "even a GOP-led election bill to the floor for fear Democrats might try to amend it" with provisions plucked from HR 1.
"The House action on election legislation has actually made it even less likely that that bill could possibly be on the Senate floor," Blunt said. "Their [H.R. 1] bill was a combination of everything that Democrats have wanted to do over the past 20 years all put into one big bill. ... That bill's just not going to go to the floor. Neither is any other bill that opens the door to these issues. Leader gets to decide that and he has made it clear."
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RepresentUs acquired 8,000 signatures on a petition asking Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to keep working on a "revolving door" bill. Paula Barkan, Austin chapter leader of RepresentUs, handed the petition to Brandon Simon, Cruz's Central Texas regional director, on July 31.
Remember that tweet exchange in May between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the one where they discussed bipartisan legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists?
To recap: Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for legislation banning the practice in light of a report by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that nearly 60 percent of lawmakers who recently left Congress had found jobs with lobbying firms. Cruz tweeted back, extending an invitation to work on such a bill. Ocasio-Cortez responded, "Let's make a deal."
The news cycle being what it is, it's easy to forget how the media jumped on the idea of the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat finding common ground on a government ethics proposal. Since then, we've collectively moved on — but not everyone forgot.
The government reform group RepresentUs recently drafted a petition asking Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez to follow through on their idea, gathering more than 8,000 signatures.
Sixty percent of young adults in the United States believe other people "can't be trusted," according to a recent Pew Research survey, which found that younger Americans were far more likely than older adults to distrust both institutions and other people. But adults of all ages did agree on one thing: They all lack confidence in elected leaders.
While united in a lack of confidence, the cohorts disagreed on whether that's a major problem. The study found that young adults (ages 18-29) were less likely than older Americans to believe that poor confidence in the federal government, the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, and the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups were "very big problems."