Senate Republicans blocked an attempt by Democrats to pass legislation meant to prevent Russia and other countries from interfering in the U.S. elections, The Hill reports. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell assigned Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) to block the legislation.
The move came after Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) asked for consent to pass the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines, or DETER Act. Van Hollen argued the bill would underscore that there would be a “very tough price to pay” if Moscow meddles in U.S. elections.
“It’s designed to send a very clear and simple message to Russia or any other country that is thinking about interfering in our elections and undermining our democracy that if we catch you, you will suffer a severe penalty,” Van Hollen said.
The bill requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to determine whether there was any foreign interference in federal elections and impose sanctions on any nations found to interfere.
Specifically, if the DNI determines that Moscow meddled in U.S. elections, sanctions on Russia would have to be implemented within 30 days of the determination.
The legislation was first introduced in early 2018, but that the bill has stalled amid pushback from GOP senators and members of leadership.
Sen. Crapo, who is chairman of the Banking Committee, which is one of two Senate panels with jurisdiction over sanctions, defended the move by claiming Trump has been tougher on Russia than any other president.
“I think that President Trump has probably put more sanctions on the Russians than any president in our history,” Crapo said.
Van Hollen shot back, saying, “this has nothing to do with President Trump. This has to do with protecting our elections.”
The back-and-forth marks the latest instance of Democrats trying to pass election-related legislation on the Senate floor only to be blocked by GOP senators.
Democrats have also tried to pass legislation that would bolster the United States’ election infrastructure and require campaigns to report any offers of foreign assistance to the FBI.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) predicted on Tuesday that if the bill was allowed it come up for a vote “it would pass almost unanimously.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said that he told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that interference in U.S. domestic affairs is “unacceptable.”
Lavrov also met with Trump at the White House on Tuesday. Trump said in a tweet that they discussed election meddling. Lavrov, however, disputed the White House account telling reporters “we haven’t even actually discussed elections.”