Exactly one week to the day after Senate Republicans blocked a bid to direct an extra $250 million toward bolstering election security ahead of November’s midterm elections, Florida Senator Bill Nelson (D) revealed that Russian hackers had successfully “penetrated” some of Florida’s election systems.
“They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about,” Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times.
Nelson, along with fellow Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R), were alerted by leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee and directed to notify Florida state election supervisors that “the Russians are in their records.”
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There is not yet any indication of what the Russians are doing specifically, although if their intent is to undermine faith in the U.S. election system, the argument can be made that their cyberattack is already a success.
The announcement comes only weeks after special counselor Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for their role in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton presidential campaign during the election. When Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, he seemed to side with the former KGB officer, only to then walk back his comments after facing intense criticism from both sides of the aisle back home.
While the Senate’s most recent effort to bolster election security seems like a no-brainer, 47 GOP Senators decided that the money was unnecessary.
“It is far too early to add another quarter billion dollars … when we don’t know how the first $380 million has even been spent,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).
Senate Republicans’ decision to balk on funding election security is especially hypocritical given that 51 Republican Senators conveniently dropped their “budget hawk” façade just long enough to hand corporations a $1.5 trillion tax cut, pushing the national deficit ever closer to a record-breaking $1 trillion dollars.
But protect our democracy? How ever will we afford it?
Here’s to hoping that Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress and the White House, make any effort whatsoever to protect our democratic institutions despite their unmitigated thirst to remain in power.