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Schumer says McConnell has agreed to Senate briefing on election security

The Hill logo The Hill 6/3/2019 Jordain Carney
Chuck Schumer et al. standing next to a man in a suit and tie: Schumer says McConnell has agreed to Senate briefing on election security © Greg Nash Schumer says McConnell has agreed to Senate briefing on election security

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Senate will get an election security briefing, after weeks of public clamoring for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to agree to the demand.

Schumer, speaking from the Senate floor, indicated that the Senate GOP leader had agreed to his weeks-long call for an all senators to receive a briefing in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"I have some positive news. I have spoken to the Republican leader about that request. He has assured me we will have a briefing," Schumer said.

He added that he and McConnell were still ironing out the timing of when the Senate briefing would take place but urged the GOP leader to hold it within weeks - before the Senate's current work period runs out at the end of June.

The closed-door briefing comes as senators have mounted a bipartisan push in the wake of Mueller's report to try to move election security through the Senate, but have run into high-profile opposition from McConnell and Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

Supporters argue that new legislation is needed to help bolster election infrastructure in the wake of Russia's actions, and as lawmakers debate how to safeguard the 2020 White House and congressional elections.

Schumer argued on Monday that the closed-door briefing needed to take place in June to give lawmakers enough time to clear legislation at least a year before the 2020 election.

"The Senate should be briefed by our intelligence and law enforcement chiefs about the threat of election interference in the 2020 election so we can all be aware of the danger that FBI Director [Christopher] Wray has already pointed out," Schumer said.

He added that he hoped the briefing would make lawmakers "see the danger and act."

"I hope it reignites a desire on both sides of the aisle to move legislation, increase funding and do what's necessary to protect our democracy," Schumer said.

The Senate Democratic leader indicated in a letter in April that he wanted the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and Cyber Command to meet with senators and discuss what efforts are already under way to protect the 2020 election and what additional resources might be needed.

The announcement of the Senate briefing comes after Mueller warned about election interference during a press conference last week, which marked his first public comments since he wrapped up his two-year investigation earlier this year.

"I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments - that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. That allegation deserves the attention of every American," Mueller told reporters.

But election interference legislation has hit a roadblock on Capitol Hill, where Mueller's findings have failed to break the months-long stalemate over election security legislation.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is urging the Senate to take up H.R. 1, a wide-ranging election and ethics reform bill, and pledged that Congress will "legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy."

McConnell hasn't publicly ruled out any election security legislation, but he's declared the House bill dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate.

But top GOP senators have downplayed the likelihood of a bill being taken up, citing the differences with House Democrats. Blunt said during a committee hearing earlier this month that "at this point I don't see any likelihood that those bills would get to the floor if we mark them up."

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