Statement Of Appropriations Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
On Urging A Senate Floor Vote On The Election Security Grant Amendment
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Today, I urge the Senate to agree to a vote on my amendment to secure our elections. The Senate must act as a coequal branch of government in defending against a threat to our democracy. The threat is very real. Our intelligence community unanimously agrees that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections, and that there is an imminent threat to the 2018 elections. Just last week, we learned that Russian hackers targeted the office of a sitting United States Senator. We cannot ignore a threat that has reached this very chamber, and we must take immediate action.
My amendment would provide $250 million dollars for State Election Security Grants to protect our upcoming elections. These funds would help states improve election cybersecurity, replace outdated election equipment, and undertake other anti-cyber efforts.
In fiscal year 2018, Congress came together, Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate, and appropriated $380 million for State Election Security Grants. This was the first new funding for election security in years. In just a few short months since then, all 55 eligible states and territories have requested funding, 100 percent of the fiscal year 2018 funds have been committed to the states, and 90 percent of the funds have been disbursed to the states.
Last week, 21 state attorneys general signed a letter pleading Congress to provide more funding to address this crisis, writing: “More funding is essential to adequately equip states with the financial resources we need to safeguard our democracy and protect the data of voting members in our states.
Securing our elections and safeguarding our democracy is not a partisan issue. I was disappointed when my amendment was rejected on a party line vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee. I was disappointed when House Republicans blocked Democrats from even being allowed a vote on this important issue on the House Floor.
I am still hopeful that the Senate will not make that same mistake.
It is time that we heed the clear warning of the intelligence community and take action. It is our obligation to take these attacks on our states seriously, and to step in with the necessary resources to defend our elections.
Let us heed the warnings of our intelligence agencies. Of the lights blinking red. Of the appeals from the attorneys general, the secretaries of state, and the state and local election officials who are sounding the alarm. This duty has fallen to us, and we must not later be found to have been asleep at the switch, with so much at stake.