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Saturday, January 22nd, 2022

Sens. Van Hollen, Rubio urge measures to protect U.S. elections from foreign interference

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U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are encouraging the leadership of the Senate and House Armed Services Committee to include the DETER Act in the final National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report.

The Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act, or DETER Act, would punish foreign entities for improperly interfering in a U.S. election. The bill, introduced by Van Hollen and Rubio, would impose serious sanctions and asset blocks on individuals or entities that interfere.

“As conference negotiations begin, we urge you to ensure that the final conference report includes language to prevent future efforts by foreign governments and foreign actors to interfere in American elections by making it clear that such interference will be met with swift and severe consequences. Specifically, we ask that you strengthen an election security provision in the House NDAA to reflect our bipartisan DETER Act (S.1060),” Rubio and Van Hollen wrote in a letter to the Armed Services Committee heads.

The called Russia’s efforts to manipulate the American people and undermine the 2016 election are undeniable. The conference committee represents this Congress’ best opportunity to enact meaningful legislation aimed at deterring Russia from a repeat performance in 2020.

“The House NDAA includes an amendment sponsored by Representatives Brad Sherman and Maxine Waters, which includes key provisions from the DETER Act,” they added. “Although the Sherman-Waters amendment is a step in the right direction, we believe it should be modified and strengthened in two important ways. First, as the Economist Intelligence Unit points out, the impact of sanctions on Russia’s sovereign debt would be “limited” given Russia’s low stock of sovereign debt, forecasted balanced budget, and substantial foreign currency reserves. Second, structuring sanctions as a consequence for future interference would serve as a more effective deterrent that applying a penalty in advance. For that reason, we ask that conference negotiators modify and strengthen the Sherman-Waters amendment with select provisions of the DETER Act.”

Specifically, they ask that sovereign debt sanctions are contingent on a finding of election interference by the Director of National Intelligence. Additional sanctions on Russia’s energy, banking and defense sectors would also be contingent on a finding of interference by the DNI. It would also include sanctions on oligarchs and senior political figures the DNI determines to have contributed to election interference.