A partisan clash over Russian hacking of state elections systems appears to be coming to a head in the Senate, where a provision to add $250 million to a four-bill spending package for states to beef up election system security may be headed for a floor vote. Democrats are using an announcement from the Election Assistance Commission and President Donald Trump’s comments in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16 to pressure Republicans to allow a floor vote on Sen. Patrick J. Leahy’s amendment to provide $250 million in grant aid to states to secure election systems. “Our states are under attack,” Leahy, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said on the floor Thursday. His amendment would provide the $250 million as part of the four-bill fiscal 2019 spending package that is expected to get a floor vote next week.
Republicans had opposed providing the additional money, saying that barely more than half the states had yet to ask for their shares of the $380 million earmarked for state election security in the fiscal 2018 budget. But the Election Assistance Commission said July 16 that all states have filed applications and that 88 percent, or $334 million, of the funds had been disbursed.
The EAC statement was dated the same day Trump, standing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin after their meeting in Helsinki, declined to endorse U.S. intelligence agencies’ findings that the Russians had sought to influence the 2016 election. Trump cited Putin’s denial of such interference and appeared to give the denial equal weight to the contradictory views of the administration’s intelligence officials.