Democratic congressional leaders demanded Wednesday that the new funding bills due by late March include a serious infusion of resources for the FBI, Homeland Security and federal elections officials to monitor and combat Russian election meddling.
Senate Democrats also called for the U.S. intelligence community to issue both public and classified reports looking at what efforts Russians, or anyone else, are making to try to influence the voting ahead of this November’s elections.
In a letter to GOP leaders the Democrats said the FBI needs $300 million in new money dedicated specifically to investigating and protecting elections systems.
The leaders said Homeland Security, which handles cyber threats, and the Election Assistance Commission, set up to advise local elections officials on best practices, also need “new money so they can act as a backstop for cash-strapped local officials.
“We have Russian operatives flooding our social media platforms with disinformation. We need both the resources and manpower to expose them,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, briefing reporters on the request.
The letter was also signed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and by Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Nita Lowey, the top Democrats on the spending committees.
The call for money comes just days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller unveiled indictments of 13 Russians and three Russian-backed companies, charging them with conspiracy to subvert the 2016 election.
Lawmakers have plenty of new cash to play with after this month’s budget deal, which envisions a boost of nearly $300 billion in 2018 and 2019.
Mr. Schumer said the $300 million request was the number the FBI suggested to lawmakers that it needs for election protection.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, called for $386 million in new federal grant money to be doled out to states and local officials to pay for them to harden their systems against hacks.