Ms. Klobuchar: Thank you. Madam President, I want to first thank my colleague from Connecticut, Senator Blumenthal, for his incredible work and leadership on this important bill on the duty to report as well as all the other work that he has done. He gets it.
He gets that we are about to adjourn this day without passing election security legislation. We have bipartisan election security legislation. We’ve had that for years. And yet it has been stopped at every step of the way. Russia invaded our democracy. Let’s be clear about that.
I don't like when we use the word meddle because that's what I do when I call my daughter on a Saturday night to ask her what she is doing.
This country, this foreign country didn't just meddle in our election.
They invaded it, right. They didn't use missiles or tanks.
They used a new kind of modern warfare, which is cyber warfare. And they did it to invade our democracy. Think about this. Our founders literally set up a country and a constitution because they wanted to be independent of a foreign country, right?
In this case, it was England. And hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost their lives on the battlefield, fighting for our democracy and democracies across the world. That’s what World War I and World War II were about, right?
Fighting for democracy across the world. Fighting for the simple right that people should be able to determine their own destiny and vote.
Yet, in 2016, we know for a fact, we know it from President Trump's own intelligence advisers, Dan Coats, who was once a Senator in this very chamber, someone we're going to miss, who is leaving his position, Dan Coats made it clear.
He said they are getting bolder. So this is something right in front of us right now, and we must respond to it.
But yet, we haven't passed a bill to address it. Yes, Senator Lankford and I, along with Senator Leahy and Coons and Shelby and others, have worked to get some money, over $200 million, into the states, which is important.
We got that done, but it doesn't really end there because actually there was no strings attached to that in terms of what we want to have done in this country, and I’ll get to that in a minute. So let's first go back over the facts since some people in this chamber seem to have trouble with facts. Let’s go over those. Special Counsel Mueller under oath just last week and in his report concluded that Russian interference in our democracy was sweeping and systematic. Those were his words, not my words.
We know that they are actively working again to undermine our democracy. In his words, when he was testifying under oath, they are doing it as we sit here. That’s what he said under oath.
The day before Special Counsel Mueller testified in the House, the FBI Director testified in front of the committee that I’m on, the Senate Judiciary Committee. I was there and asked him questions.
I asked him whether he thinks having things like paper ballots makes sense in the event that the Russia hacking happens again. He said yes, they would be a good thing.
This is the FBI Director for the United States of America who was appointed by Donald Trump. Again, he was under oath. We have got multiple pieces of legislation that would require backup paper ballots, different versions, but they all really do the same thing.
Some of them have different kinds of audits, but the one thing they have in common is the paper ballots.
And I am leading one of these bills with Senator Warner and a number of my colleagues. One of them is a bill we have with Senator Wyden that's important. And then there is the work that Senator Lankford and I have done across the aisle, which is a bipartisan bill which we continue to work on today.
But what has happened, what do all of these bills have in common?
They have been blocked by the leadership on the Republican side and opposed by the White House. That’s right.
They weren't vetoed because they never got to the White House because the White House made the move of stopping them in their tracks before they could get to the White House. I know because I am the ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee, and our jurisdiction is elections, and our job was to get that bill through the committee to the Senate floor.
It was actually scheduled for a markup, which means you get the bill all done and you head in to the Senate floor where I predict it would have gotten at least three-fourths of the members voting for that bipartisan bill.
What happened? The White House made calls. They made calls. The White House Counsel actually called Senators on the committee and said that they didn't want it to advance. That’s what we call like, you know, smoking gun evidence. That happened. That happened. Okay.
So we know why this bill was blocked. In addition to that, Republican leadership, including the leader, made very clear that they did not want that bill to advance in the Senate.
Our top intelligence officials and law enforcement officers are sounding the alarm about the fact that our elections are a target. Look at what they have done. They have blocked this, blocked this, despite the best advice from the intelligence officials in the United States of America.
And it doesn't stop there. It doesn't stop there. Other bills that they won't allow to advance, one of them involves social media. You all know what it's like when you have your Facebook page or your Twitter feed or you are searching something on Google and something comes up.
And ad pops up, right? Sometimes it's scarily related to something you were searching for, but yes, ads pop up. Do you know what other kinds of ads pop up.
Political ads pop up. Those ads are paid for by some kind of political entity. I see my friend, Senator Warner, is here on this floor, and he is an expert on this as the ranking member of the intelligence committee, the fact that actually some of these ads in 2016 were paid for in rubles. This is illegal.
A foreign country cannot pay for ads on the internet, but they were doing that because there is no checks and balances. So what kind of ads are on there?
What would you do if you were a campaigner, an issue group, and you want to put a bunch of dirty ads out there? Would you do it on TV?
No, you wouldn't do it on TV. If you were a foreign country, would you do that?
No, because there are rules in place for newspaper, TV, and radio. They have to check those ads out, they have to keep them so people can see them and they have to show who is going to pay for them. There are no rules like that on social media.
That’s why I have introduced formally with my friend Senator McCain, now with Senator Graham and Senator Warner, the Honest Ads Act which simply puts those rules in place. Literally if we pass that bill right now, today, before we left for recess, well, they could get this done on a large platform. Some of them are voluntarily doing that, but it’s a mishmash and some of them aren't doing it at all.
We cannot go into this next election when last time over a billion was spent on them and next time its $3 billion to $4 billion without any rules of the road. I go back to the same argument I made.
Hundreds of thousands of people risked their lives and died on the battlefield to protect that right to vote, to not be influenced by foreign countries, right?
Why aren't we doing things to protect that democracy now in this modern age?
Four little girls in a church in Birmingham lost their lives at the height of the civil rights movement. Why?
Because people were trying to take away people's rights.
Because they didn't want them in on this democracy.
That’s the American history. And yeah, these things sound newfangled that we're talking about, cyberattacks and ads on social media, but it's actually just the same version of what our founders fought for in the very beginning.
And that is why we are making such a big deal out of protecting our democracy. Everyone remembers the 2000 election. We all saw the hanging chads displayed on TV across the country.
That experience taught us that our election systems were outdated.
So what did Congress do back then? Pass the Help America Vote Act, landmark legislation that provided more than $3 billion to states, helping them update their election infrastructure. That was 17 years ago before the iPhone existed and the federal government has not made a big investment to update our election technology ever since. Russia knew that when they attacked us in 2016, right?
We can't do it this way. We aren't able to use battleships.
What way would work today? What’s their big vulnerability?
Let’s go to the soft spot where they haven't putting the money in to protect themselves. They conducted sophisticated influence operations, hacked political committees and campaigns, as you remember revealed the e-mails of the chairman of the democratic candidate, targeted administrators and even private technology firms responsible for manufacturing and administering election systems. In Illinois the names, addresses, birthdates, partial Social Security numbers of thousands of registered voters were exposed.
Just recently we learned that the hacked election systems, two Florida counties, hacked by the Russians, and the Department of Homeland Security is conducting forensic analysis on computers used North Carolina after it was revealed in the Mueller report that a voting software company was hacked by Russia.
So we have a common set of facts of what’s happened. What we need to do now is to address these facts with purpose, and the American people, there must be an outcry about this. This must be done not after 2020.
It has to be done now. We have a long way to go to make sure that our election systems are resilient against attacks.
So more facts, 40 states relay on electronic voting systems that are at least 10 years old. 11 states have no or partial back up paper ballots. 16 states have no state-wide audit requirement.
These are alarming statistics. I’m not telling you anything secret. The Russians know them today. That’s why I’ve worked with my democratic colleagues in the House and Senate on legislation that would provide critical election security funding in the coming years, and mostly it would be tied to a requirement that they have backup paper ballots. Otherwise what are we going to get done if we don't have the backup paper ballots if there is a hack?
It doesn't even matter if three counties in a swing state were hacked, if we can’t figure out the results. If this was just their state elections that would be embarrassing and pathetic but this is going to be a national presidential election. And we cannot risk having counties or states hacked into because then we would have chaos and not know the result.
Last week my bill was offered by Senator Schumer on the floor. It could have gone to the president's desk that day. Instead Leader McConnell objected.
During his objection, he said that election legislation must be drafted with great care and on a bipartisan basis.
We did that. Senator Warner is here. He worked on it. We did that with Senator Lankford, but we were blocked at the rules committee. We were blocked that is a documented fact. The markup had been scheduled. It was ready to go.
Senator Blunt had been willing to hold a markup on the bill and it was stopped.
I am going to tell that story every day until we advance this. I have an opportunity to do that, and I’m going to do it because people need to know what's going on.
This should not be -- this should not be about partisanship or about what benefits what party.
Do you think that's what the founders were thinking when they decided to declare independence from a foreign country?
They were thinking of our country as one, a ramshackle group of those early founders, farmers, and small business people. They came together and said, we love this land and we don’t want to have another country influencing us. That is exactly what this is about.
Election security is national security. It is time we started acting like it.
The federal government spends more money on military bans every year than it does on election security assistance to states. In 2018, I love military bands, but let's get real. In 2018 we fought to get $380 million in election funding. That was a first step. That was 3% of the cost of one aircraft carrier.
Recently, 22 state attorneys general sent congress a letter asking for us to take action to protect the integrity of our election infrastructure, including the attorneys general from states like Iowa and Mississippi. These were not blue states.
They did not see this as a partisan issue. This is not about one election or one party. This is about our democracy and our national security.
We need to be on a united front, I say to my colleagues, a united front in fighting against those who interfere with our democracy.
I’m glad to see Senator Warner, someone on the front line doing that every day in his very important position on the intelligence committee, is here today.
Thank you, Madam President. I yield the floor.