The Senate could be headed for a showdown this week over funding for state election security. Democrats are pushing for a floor vote on an amendment that would set aside an additional $250 million in grants for states to upgrade their voting systems and make other improvements. But they face firm opposition from Republicans, who say the initial round of funding Congress provided states earlier this year is sufficient. A similar amendment was rejected by the House two weeks ago in a party-line vote. Election security funding is fast emerging as a political hill Democrats are willing to die on. Although the amendment is unlikely to pass in the GOP-controlled Senate, Democrats can use it to hammer President Trump at a time when the White House is frantically trying to patch up the damage from his recent flip-flopping on the threat from Russia. Democrats are also hoping that a floor fight over the merits of grant money could make Republicans look like they’re standing in the way of resources state officials say they need to protect the vote. Whether that will help Democrats come November is unclear, but public polling has showed strong majorities of Americans want to see more action from the administration on election security.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who is sponsoring the amendment to the package of appropriations bills known as a “minibus,” seized on Trump’s election security meeting with senior national security advisers Friday to make his case for the amendment. He said it was “a lie” for the administration to claim credit for a “whole-of-government” response to election interference, as the White House asserted in its official statement on the closed-door huddle.
“The Trump budget would ZERO OUT election security funds,” Leahy wrote in a tweet. “My Senate amendment, blocked by House GOP, would continue much-needed funding for election security grants. The Senate should be allowed to vote on it.”