Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of Senate GOP leadership, said Wednesday that the chamber is unlikely to vote on any election security legislation, despite requests from a federal agency for more funding to improve election systems nationwide.
Blunt made the remarks at a Senate Rules Committee hearing where Election Assistance Commission (EAC) officials highlighted what they said is an urgent need for more resources.
His comments were in response to Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) pointedly asking during the hearing whether the Rules Committee, chaired by Blunt, would mark up any election security bills already introduced this Congress.
“At this point I don’t see any likelihood that those bills would get to the floor if we mark them up,” Blunt said.
When Durbin asked why that was the case, Blunt said, “I think the majority leader is of the view that this debate reaches no conclusion. And frankly, I think the extreme nature of H.R. 1 from the House makes it even less likely we are going to have that debate.”
H.R. 1 is a sweeping election reform package that includes language on election security and integrity. The House passed the bill along party lines earlier this year, and Senate Democrats introduced their version of the legislation in March.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has publicly said he won’t allow a vote on the bill.
When asked about Blunt’s remarks on Wednesday, McConnell’s office pointed to the majority leader’s “case closed” comments earlier this week on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference in 2016.
Durbin said there’s a clear need to act on election security legislation.
“At the CIA and intelligence agencies, millions of dollars are being spent to stop the Russians from making a mess of the 2020 election. But in the United States Senate we can’t bring a bill to the floor to even debate it. It doesn’t speak very well of us,” Durbin said.
EAC Chairwoman Christy McCormick drew attention to a staffing shortage at the agency.
“The EAC does not have full time employees devoted to these new components of providing election security support,” McCormick said.
According to McCormick, the EAC’s budget has been cut by 50 percent since 2010, when it had 49 staffers. The agency now has 22 staff members.
“Without additional resources, we simply will not be able to provide the breadth of support election officials need and expect from the EAC to ensure secure, accessible, and efficient elections,” McCormick said.
The EAC is charged with developing voluntary voting system guidelines to secure voting systems throughout the country, and with distributing election funding to states. The Trump administration requested $11.9 million to fund the agency in fiscal year 2020; in 2010, the agency received $16.5 million.