The Senate Rules Committee’s last-minute decision Wednesday to postpone a markup of the Secure Elections Act (S. 2593) was a significant setback for a bill that had been considered a bipartisan bright spot in a bitterly divided Congress. “For everyone else who delayed this action today, I hope that you will listen to the clarion cry of our intelligence community and continue to work with us and reschedule the markup and pass the bill into law,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the ranking member on the Rules Committee and the bill’s chief Democratic co-sponsor, said in a statement. Rules announced the delay hours before DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen urged states to have a “verifiable and auditable ballot,” though she deferred on the question of whether paper was essential, saying, “I don’t know that we’re interested in mandating how.”
Emerging from a classified briefing on election security, Sen. James Lankford, the bill’s Republican sponsor, sounded optimistic about its future. “I think it’ll pass but we’re still working through what does this word mean and tweaking that one phrase and how could that be used,” he told Martin. “I think it comes back up. It’s not canceled, it’s postponed.” Asked if the closed-door session with national security leaders bolstered the case for an election security bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters: “We’re still talking about the issue.” Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee and a sponsor of the bipartisan measure, was more urgent. “I don’t know how anybody could walk out of that session and not realize we need a bipartisan election security bill,” he said.
Still, inaction ruled the day because of concerns from state election officials that the bill’s requirements — including one mandating post-election audits — amounted to unfunded mandates. “It is important that any legislation passed by Congress regarding election administration includes funding for states to have the resources necessary to continue our work protecting the integrity of our electoral process,” Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, told MC in a statement. “I believe it was correct to delay a vote today to allow the legislation to be further refined and improved.” Condos added that it was “imperative that this work is guided by the input of Secretaries of State and state election officials, who best know the needs of our individual election administration systems.”
Multiple secretaries of state “voiced concern with the bill” prior to the postponement of the markup, according to Eric Covey, a Condos spokesman. Those concerns prevented Lankford and Rules Chairman Roy Blunt from gaining the support of additional Republicans, Klobuchar said in a statement — even after a key auditing provision was watered down “to accommodate the Republican leadership.” NASS itself declined to weigh in on the Rules Committee’s decision. “NASS has spoken with and asked questions of Senate Rules staff about certain provisions of the bill including definitions, implementation guidelines, nomination processes, etc.,” Maria Dill Benson, the group’s communications director, told MC. “NASS does not currently have a position on the Secure Elections Act but we look forward to continued positive discussions.”
Full Article: What’s next for postponed Secure Elections Act – POLITICO.