Via the Free Beacon, a key step in making America great again is [checks notes] making it easy for Democrats to dunk on the GOP over patriotism?
This is a stunt but a shrewd one, particularly if Russia tries any cyber-shenanigans on Election Day this fall. (Which, if you believe Trump’s own DNI, is entirely possible.) WaPo has a good explainer. Democrats are demanding another $380 million in grants for the states to fund security measures related to the election. But there’s no need, counters the GOP. They’ve already received $380 million as part of this year’s budget! The money’s been appropriated and in most cases it’s already been doled out. No states are asking for more, at least right now. And if something comes up, like ominous new intelligence about Russian active measures or a development in the Mueller case that might require added election security, then Congress’s appropriations committees can simply huddle and hand the states more cash. They don’t need any more money today.
In fact, if Democrats want to be mad at someone for not taking the Russian cyber-threat more seriously, they should be mad at the states themselves. Not all of them are on the ball, per KCRA:
[The Election Assistance Commission] just handed out $380 million to states to strengthen their voting systems. But nearly 70 percent of the states waited more than two months to ask for the money, a Hearst Television review of EAC data found. Now that the last state, Maine, requested it Friday, July 13, there’s no requirement they spend it to protect November’s midterm elections…
As of July 13, just 18 of the 50 states have asked DHS for free “risk and vulnerability” cyber assessments. States could also choose to hire private companies or do it in-house.
And only about half of state elections officials eligible for permanent security clearances from the federal government have them. They need that clearance to receive ongoing classified information about threats.
You can understand why some people want the feds to take over election security from the states. Old voting machines, old software, officials who are out of the loop — there are enough holes in state administration of elections that a big-government proposal doesn’t seem outlandish. But that’s unlikely to happen with the GOP in charge, and even if Republicans were game it’d probably be impossible to overhaul the system before November. So what’s a Democrat eager to make hay of Trump’s Russia liabilities to do?
Why, throw money at the problem, of course. Hence today’s demand for another $380 million for the states up front, which is unlikely to do much practical good right now but might do a ton of political good for Dems later. If Dan Coats’s worst fears are realized and Russia infiltrates some state system this fall — or, even better for Dems, if the feds detect an attempt by Russia to infiltrate before the midterms that they can campaign on — Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and the rest will point straight back to today’s vote. If only Republicans cared about protecting America from Putin, they’ll say, they would have provided the money. They wanted Russia to hack us!
Which, under any other administration, would be easy for the GOP to dismiss as preposterous. But when the head of the party just got done kneecapping his own intelligence bureaus side by side with Putin onstage in Finland, it may have a certain visceral persuasion to swing voters that it otherwise wouldn’t. There’s no escaping the fact that if Russia succeeds in interfering in any way with this fall’s campaign, Trump’s own behavior to date will make the inevitable febrile let-it-happen-on-purpose theories about GOP complicity worth considering to some voters who otherwise would laugh them off. This floor stunt is all about laying down a market so that Dems can say “we told you so!” later.
Exit question: Can you imagine if the GOP had succeeded in killing off the Election Assistance Commission early last year? Hoo boy.
.@WhipHoyer on motion to recommit to spending bill for more election security funds: "Surely we can rise above pandering to party and Putin to act on behalf of our freedom and our security."
House Democrats chant USA on House floor.
— CSPAN (@cspan) July 19, 2018