Senate Republicans firm up opposition to protecting U.S. elections from Russian hacking

PBS NewsHour / YouTube Sen Lisa Murkowski on disagreeing with 1560889173.jpg...
PBS NewsHour / YouTube

You might think protecting U.S. elections from hacking would be a bipartisan priority, especially as headlines roll out telling us that Russian hacking in 2016 was more extensive than previously realized. But it’s that second part that has Senate Republicans blocking election security measures—because they believe that the people most likely to be undermining American democracy are not a collective of left-wing hackers, but the Russian government trying to help Donald Trump. Now even Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an occasional Republican swing vote, is coming out against election security legislation, joining Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s blockade.

Murkowski’s explanations for her opposition make her sound too stupid to walk and breathe at the same time, which makes you think just maybe something else is going on here. “I’m not sure why we need to have” a new election security bill, Murkowski said, as if there aren’t concrete reasons to worry that election hacking was effective in 2016. Except then Murkowski goes on to say that “I know there are some who believe we have to do more election reform. I think some of it is calculated to add, I think, additional fuel to the Mueller report and the aftermath of that.” So basically, “Yes, the Mueller report detailed reasons for concern about Russian actions … but that’s why we shouldn’t do anything to protect our elections.”

Murkowski also doesn’t see why, after Trump made clear he’d take election help from foreign governments without reporting it to the FBI, the Senate should consider a bill banning that even more explicitly than it already is banned. “It seems to me that good sense would say you should report that, and we ought not need to legislate it,” she said, and because we “ought not” need to do that, she’s not going to do it. Lady, we ought not need to legislate against murder because good sense would say that it’s wrong, and yet, lo and behold, there are laws against murder. But again, she goes on to make clear that she’s protecting her party, insisting that passing a bill against campaigns doing the thing she agrees is wrong would be a bad idea precisely because the reason to pass such a bill is that someone came out and told us he was going to do it.

House Democrats plan to pass a series of election security bills, and hope that doing so will put pressure on McConnell and Senate Republicans as the public sees the Senate refusing to act on an area where polls show most people think we need stronger laws. That’s a nice thought, but have they met Mitch McConnell? He has shown time and again that no amount of public pressure is enough to overcome his ruthless determination to preserve Republican power by the dirtiest means at his disposal. And if he’s got people like Lisa Murkowski on board … well, public pressure is a must, but not because it’s going to overcome Republican opposition. Rather, public pressure is a must because voters need to go to the polls in 2020 in no doubt about where Republicans stand.

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