07.26.18

Appropriations Vice Chair Patrick Leahy’s Floor Statement Just Now On The Election Security Grants Amendment That He Has Introduced

Today, Congress must heed the clear warnings of our Intelligence Community and take an important step – a meaningful step -- toward defending our democracy.  If we do nothing, we leave our elections vulnerable to an aggressive foreign adversary fully intent on destabilizing our country.  To this Vermonter, and many of the Senators in this chamber, this is a simple choice, and a solemn responsibility. 

Today, the Senate must vote on my amendment to provide $250 million dollars in grants to the states to help secure their election systems.  We must send a clear message to Russian and other foreign adversaries that tampering in our elections will not be tolerated. Speeches are not enough.  We must vote.

In FY 2018, Congress came together, Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate, and appropriated $380 million for State Election Security Grants in response to our Intelligence Community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.  In just a few short months since then, all 55 eligible states and territories have requested funding, 100 percent of these funds have been committed to the states, and 90 percent of the funds have been disbursed to the states.  

The need is clear, and we have only scratched the surface.  This week, 21 state attorneys general signed a letter pleading Congress to appropriate more funding to address this imminent threat.  Experts agree that aside from our appropriation last year, Congress has not provided any new spending on election security grants in years.

By not providing these funds, Congress has allowed our election infrastructure to lag behind the times, and the threat.  We are leaving our country vulnerable to a clear threat to the foundation of this very institution, and the other institutions of American government. 

My amendment would provide the funding needed to help protect our elections, which we have been warned are once again being targeted.  This Senate must be allowed to vote to defend this institution and our democracy. 

In a world where the President of the United States stood shoulder to shoulder with Vladimir Putin, refused to condemn Russia’s attack on our elections, and attacked our own law enforcement and intelligence agencies, my amendment is a necessary first step.

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