Madam President, I share our leader's outrage over what is going on right know at the border over these private facilities where these children are being housed and about the lack of an ability to bring amendments on the national defense authorization act. 

The one that the leader mentioned is imperative that we go forward with this right now. 

We have a situation where the president tweets us closer to war each day. Ten minutes short, got us out of an agreement that while imperfect would have prevented us from being in the situation that we're in, and congress must be a check and balance on this administration, and under the constitution, we should have the ability to do this. I cannot stress how important this amendment is. And today I'm here to talk about another amendment that is also necessary to protect our democracy and protect our country, and that is about our elections, our very elections, the fundamental foundation of our democracy. 

We know one thing, and who do we know it from?

We know it from the president's own national intelligence director, his FBI Director, we know it from all of his security leaders, and that is that Russia invaded our democracy. They didn't use bombs, jets or tanks.

Instead they planned a sophisticated cyber mission to undermine our democratic system. Special Counsel Mueller also concluded that Russia interference in our democracy was, quote, sweeping and systematic. Madam President, our elections are less than 500 days a away. We know that Russia is actively working to attack our democracy again, and our intelligence officials are again sounding alarms. The FBI Director, President Trump's FBI Director said Russia's efforts to interfere in our 2018 election were just a, quote, dress rehearsal for the big show in 2020. 

So has the administration worked with congress to help craft legislation to make sure our election systems are fortified against future attacks? No. They actually stopped the bipartisan bill that was moving ahead at the end of last year. I see my colleague from Oklahoma here, Senator Lankford. He and I led that bill, and the cosponsors included the head of the intelligence committee as well as the ranking member. It was a bill that had significant support and still has significant support. But just as we're about to mark up that bill in the rules committee, the white house made some calls to Republican senators. Leader McConnell made some calls to republican senators. And that bipartisan effort was stopped in its tracks, which would have paved the way to making sure that if federal election money was given out to the states that we would have had to have backup paper ballots. 

It would have paved the way for audits. But instead it was stopped in its tracks, blocked by the white house. Earlier this month the president invited more election interference when he said he would accept help from a foreign adversary once again. That happened. It is unprecedented and it is wrong. At a time when the president is failing to do his job to protect our democracy, Congress must do its job. And in fact there's bipartisan legislation that's been introduced in the house right now that includes many of the things that I will be talking about today, that including funding, additional funding. And I do thank the Senator from Oklahoma, Senator Lankford. He and I helped -- led the way, in addition to our colleagues in the appropriations committee, Senator Shelby and Senator Leahy, Senator Coons and others, to make sure that we got $380 million out to the states over a year ago. But it is time to step up again. 

Everyone remembers what happened back in the 2000 election. We all saw those hanging chads displayed on tv's across the country. That experience taught America that we needed to update our election equipment. When we couldn't figure out who won for President of the United States, yeah, maybe you need to update your election equipment. 

So what happened back then? Well, we passed the Help America Vote Act. I wasn't here then, but that's what they did. It was landmark legislation that provided more than $3 billion to states to help them update their election infrastructure. That was 17 years ago, madam president, before the iphone even existed. And the federal government has not made a big major investment to update our election technology since. Russia knew that. What better way to upend our democracy than try to break into our election equipment, than try to spread propaganda against campaigns and candidates in our election. And that's what they did. 

They conducted sophisticated influence operations in 2016, where do I learn this? I learn this from the trump intelligence advisors. They have political committees and campaigns. They targeted election administrators and even private technology firms responsible for manufacturing and administering election systems. In Illinois, the names, addresses, birth dates and partial social security numbers of thousands of registered voters were exposed. Just recently we learned that the election systems in two Florida counties were hacked by the Russians, and the department of homeland security is conducting forensic analysis on computers used in North Carolina after it was revealed in the Mueller report that a voting software company was hacked by Russia. How much more do we need to know as we go into these 2020 elections? I don't think much more. We have a common set of facts about what happened and we know that there's a continued threat against our democracy. What we need to do now is address these facts with a common purpose, to protect our democracy, to make sure that our election systems are resilient against future attacks. We have a long way to go when it comes to making sure our election systems are resilient. Right now 40 states rely on electronic voting estimates that are at least ten -- voting systems that are at least ten years old. Do you think I'm telling a surprise to Russia? No. They know this. 12 states have no or partial paper ballot backups. 12 states. 16 states have no state-wide audit requirement to figure out after the fact what happened and if their elections were secure. These statistics are alarming because experts agree that paper ballots and audits are the baseline of what we need to secure our election systems. 

Many election officials continue to sound the alarm that they lack the funding necessary to replace outdated equipment, hire cybersecurity experts and make other much-needed improvements to their election system. Maybe as a country we can say, well, state if you're not doing this, not our problem. That's yours. No. This is a presidential election before us. And if a few counties in one swing state or an entire state gets hacked into and there's no backup paper ballots and we can't figure out what happened, the entire election will be called into question. No democrat, no republican, no independent can want that to happen, especially when we can prevent it from happening. The house bill, that includes the same amount of money as we did last time, and that is about 3% of the cost of one aircraft carrier. The bill that I'm proposing now that we moved forward to is about 8% of the cost of one aircraft carrier. And that is to protect our entire democracy from the kind of modern warfare, not old-fashioned warfare, modern warfare that we are seeing today, which is cyber warfare. Protecting our democracy from future attacks will require modernizing our election systems and building new safeguards to prevent cyberattacks, important steps that will require meaningful federal assistance.

Do you really think that the state of Arkansas or the state of Maine, that they're supposed to be fully responsible for protecting ourselves from a foreign powers cyberattack? I don't actually think so. If we could come together to quickly help the states address things like those hanging chads back in 2000, which were in fact just a function of bad election equipment, we certainly must come together to protect ourselves from a cyberattack from a foreign power. And, by the way, the last time it was one foreign power. Maybe this time it will be another one. We must do the right thing for our country. 

That's why I worked with my colleagues in the house and senate, including Senator Lankford, on legislation that would provide critical election funding in the coming years. The bill before us today, our legislation, the election security act, would also require states to use paper ballots and it would provide funding for states to implement post election audits. It would require the president to issue a national security strategy to protect US democratic institutions from cyberattacks and influence operations. And it would establish a bipartisan commission to develop recommendations drawing upon lessons learned from our European allies who feels been repeatedly subject to attacks from Russia, to counter election interference. This is the kind of legislation that American people elected us to pass. As I noted, the house is taking action. It will consider similar legislation this week. The senate must take strong action on election security as well.

Madam president, I ask unanimous consent that the rules committee be discharged from further consideration of s. 1540 and the senate proceed to its immediate consideration. Further, that the bill be considered read a third time and passed and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no interfering action or debate.



Mr. President, I appreciate the work my colleague has done with me and others on this issue, but I do want to point out a few things. One, I agree this should not be a partisan issue. In fact, our bill was as bipartisan as it gets, with the two of us leading the bill and with Senator Warner and Senator Burr, the leaders of the intelligence committee, as cosponsors, and with Senator Graham and Senator Harris from the judiciary committee. It was a strong bill. And I would be glad to call that up as an amendment if you would be willing to do that, but you wonder why wouldn't we be able to advance this bipartisan bill, and it is because the White House made it decidedly partisan, because they objected to it moving forward. Our own bipartisan bill. And Leader McConnell did not want that bill to move forward. He made it very clear. So let's be very precise about why we were having this discussion today, and that is that we could have done this bill with the backup paper ballots attached to the funding a year ago, but it was blocked by the Republicans.

So now we are where we are, and this idea that we just wait and every year say it won't help that next election, it won't help that next election, I believe in the importance of urgency and getting this done. Secondly, I am not trying to federalize our elections. In fact, this model, while there is more money attached to it, is very similar to the model that we have discussed and that is included in our bill. It's this idea that if the states are willing to do what they are supposed to do, then they get the federal money. It does not federalize elections. Third, the North Carolina example that I just brought up, that didn't just happen back in 2016. That happened much more recently.

And so our concern based on the assessments that we have been given by the Trump security advisors, based on what President Trump's FBI Director said just last month. He didn't say it last year. He said it last month. That this is happening now, and that Congress must do more to help defend our elections. I will repeat, election security is national security. We must remember this.

Last week, 22 state attorneys general, 22 states sent congress a letter asking for us to take action to protect the integrity of our election infrastructure. We received similar letters from state election officials and leading law officials, law enforcement officials in nearly half the country are begging us to take action. Think about that. So while I have no doubt that there has been some progress and there is better communication, I tend to believe the people that are on the ground, and that is the chief law enforcement officers in nearly half the states in this country.

I tend to believe the FBI Director for President Trump himself, the National Intelligence Director for President Trump himself. The integrity of our election system is the cornerstone of our democracy. The freedom to choose our leaders and know with full confidence that those leaders were chosen in free and fair elections, that is something that Americans have fought and died for since our country was founded. You can go back to 1923 when Stalin said you know what? To the communist party. Who votes? That may not matter. What matters is who counts the votes. History is repeating itself, and obstructing efforts to improve election security is an insult to those who have fought for our freedom and those who work every day to protect our democracy.

This is not about one election or one party. That is why we worked so hard to have a bipartisan bill. And I was willing to make compromises on that bill. We were gut punched by the White House. Senator Blunt had sent that rules committee markup. It was ready to go. I think 75% of the senators right here in this chamber, if that bill was called up right now, would vote for it, but we were gut punched by the white house. They didn't want the backup paper ballots, they didn't want to have those audits, they didn't want to have the additional money for election security. So I don't want to hear about how this is a partisan effort to try to push this right now, because this is not about one election or one party. It's about our democracy. We need to be a united front in fighting against those who interfere with our democracy, and we must do everything in our power to prevent foreign interference from letting this ever happen again.

This is the bill that should be on because it is the Defense Authorization Act, it is about the security of our country, and free and fair elections. That is the fundamental basis for the security of America. I look forward to working with my colleagues. I hope we will find some way to overcome these objections from the White House. I yield the floor. I note the absence of a quorum.