Senate Republicans blocked legislation on Thursday that would force campaigns to notify the Federal Election Commission and the FBI about attempts by foreign nationals to influence an election.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tried to pass the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act by unanimous consent.
“This legislation is pretty simple, even for this body, it would require any presidential campaign that receives offers of assistance from an agent of a foreign government, has an obligation to report that offer of assistance to law enforcement, specifically the FBI,” Warner said from the Senate floor.
Under Warner’s bill, campaign officials would have to report contacts with foreign nationals who are trying to make campaign donations or coordinate with the campaign to the Federal Election Commission, which would in turn notify the FBI.
Senate rules allow any one senator to ask for unanimous consent to pass a bill or approve a nomination. But any one senator can object and block the request.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) objected to Warner’s request, saying the reporting requirements within the legislation go “overboard.”
“The UC that was presented is overboard, and this is something that should be done in a thoughtful way. It should be done in a bipartisan way,” Blackburn said.
Warner countered that Blackburn’s reading of his legislation was “not accurate.”
“The only thing that would have to be reported is if an agent of a foreign government or a foreign national offered something that was already prohibited,” he added.
The back-and-forth on the Senate floor came after President Trump set off alarm bells when he told ABC News that he was open to looking at information about a political opponent even if it was offered by a foreign government.
“I think you might want to listen. There’s nothing wrong with listening,” he told ABC. “It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go, maybe, to the FBI.”
Senate Republicans have rushed to distance themselves from Trump’s comments, while Democrats have pointed to Trump’s interview with ABC News as an example of why Congress needs to pass additional election security legislation.
“This White House and this president doesn’t seem to appreciate the seriousness of the threat,” Warner said from the Senate floor.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said senators would try again to pass the legislation.
“When a president feels it’s more important to win an election than conduct a fair election, we’re a step further away from democracy and toward autocracy. That’s what dictators believe, winning at all cost,” he added.