Even as experts on cybersecurity and foreign interference told lawmakers Wednesday that the threat from Russia and other states seeking to influence American democracy is getting worse, the Senate failed to approve $250 million for state election security in the coming fiscal year. The specialists were testifying about the threat specifically as it relates to social media, but they were arguing that the U.S. government needs to mount a more aggressive and comprehensive approach to counter threats from foreign governments’ efforts to undermine U.S. institutions including elections. “As we focus on the past, we are missing what is happening and what will happen again,” Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a fellow at the German Marshall Fund, told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Just over an hour after Rosenberger delivered that warning, the $250 million in election security funding failed to garner the necessary 60 votes to pass, falling on a 50-47 vote. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was the sole Republican to join all Democrats in supporting the measure.
The House rejected a similar measure for $380 million last month. Congress appropriated that same amount in March for the 2018 election and has already distributed it to states for election security measures, but state officers have already said they need additional funds. Some states have not yet fully drained their existing funding, but that has more to do with bureaucratic delays and the incremental nature of spending government money than with decreased need.