- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Sen. Mike Crapo, Idaho Republican, blocked Tuesday an effort to fast-track a bipartisan bill meant to deter foreign governments from interfering in the U.S. electoral process.

The chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Mr. Crapo shot down an attempt by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, to advance the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act, or DETER Act.

Offered by Mr. Van Hollen and Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, the DETER Act is among several election security bills introduced in response to the U.S. intelligence community assessing that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential race. It would allow the federal government to impose harsh new sanctions on foreign countries assessed to have attempted to interfere in U.S. elections, effectively raising the cost Russia would face over future meddling,

Mr. Van Hollen sought unanimous request for the Senate to immediately consider and pass the DETER Act, but Mr. Crapo objected and single-handedly prevented it from moving forward.

“I agree and have agreed that we can work on further legislation, but we need to get it right because economic sanctions legislation is a two-edged sword,” Mr. Crapo said. “It hurts the United States and our allies often as much as it hurts the entities sanctioned, and because of that we have to have the ability to be flexible and when to apply, how to apply and how to adjust the impact of our sanctions. Otherwise, we will see that we will do more damage to ourselves and our allies than to Russia.”

Mr. Crapo said the Trump administration has already “probably put more sanctions on the Russians than any president in our history.”

“The mechanisms in this bill have been designed more to attack the Trump administration and Republicans than to attack the Russians and those who would attack our country and our elections,” he said.

Mr. Van Hollen subsequently rejected Mr. Crapo’s assertion and referenced that the bill is currently co-sponsored by six Republicans and five Democrats, and that it would provide the president with the flexibility to waive sanctions under certain circumstances.

“This has nothing to do with President Trump. This has to do with protecting our elections,” said Mr. Van Hollen, who noted the DETER Act would not take effect if passed until after the incumbent is done campaigning for a second term.

“The whole purpose of this bill is to have sanctions that are tough enough so that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin doesn’t interference or another foreign government doesn’t interfere,” Mr. Van Hollen said.

The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that Mr. Putin likely authorized Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, and several top Trump administration officials recently warned that several other adversaries are inclined to interfere in next year’s race.

“Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions,” reads an excerpt from a joint statement issued last month by the heads of the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security, among others. “Adversaries may try to accomplish their goals through a variety of means, including social media campaigns, directing disinformation operations, or conducting disruptive or destructive cyberattacks on state and local infrastructure.”

Russia has denied interfering in the 2016 race.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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