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S. 2313 (115th): Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act of 2018


Should Russia be sanctioned and punished further if they attempt to interfere in U.S. elections?

Context

Russia will likely attempt to interfere with November’s midterm elections, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both warn.

Despite President Trump’s wavering and incoherence, the CIA, FBI, and NSA all agree that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Yet in a July press conference, Trump appeared to accept Vladimir Putin’s denials of election interference, over the unanimous findings of interference by U.S. intelligence agencies.

What the bill does

The Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act would establish new sanctions on Russia if they interfere in the midterm election. [S. 2313 + H.R. 4884]

It would require the director of national intelligence to determine within 30 days after any federal election whether a foreign government had interfered. That’s any foreign government, not just Russia, although it’s very clear which country is top of mind.

The bill gives several specific definitions that constitute “interference,” including:

Although the bill applies to any foreign country, it also specifies several specific sanctions to be implemented on Russia if they interfere. They include sanctions on Russian state-owned banks, oil and gas companies, air carriers, and defense companies.

Though introduced in January, the legislation gained new life — and cosponsors — after July’s joint press conference in which Trump appeared to accept Vladimir Putin’s denials of election interference, over the unanimous findings of interference by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The legislation was introduced by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) in the Senate and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL27) in the House.

What supporters say

Supporters argue the legislation would stiffen American punishment against foreign powers attempting to mess with what should be a self-contained election process.

“Russian efforts to undermine U.S. leadership and interests know no boundaries, including at home,” Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said in a press release. “As our Intelligence Community has repeatedly confirmed, Russia blatantly meddled in our 2016 elections, as well as previous elections, in an attempt to erode public trust in our electoral process and undermine our democratic institutions.”

“It will undoubtedly do so again,” Ros-Lehtinen continued. “With this bill, we can help deter future attacks by ensuring Putin is clear on the heavy price that will be paid, including debilitating sanctions on key Russian economic sectors.”

What opponents say

Opponents counter that the legislation would hamstring the executive branch’s ability to conduct foreign affairs.

“It encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate. Congress could not even negotiate a healthcare bill after seven years of talking. By limiting the Executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people,” Trump said last year regarding a similar Russia sanctions bill.

“The Framers of our Constitution put foreign affairs in the hands of the President. This bill will prove the wisdom of that choice.”

Odds of passage

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said “there’s a possibility”the Senate could take up the bill. Though he didn’t explicitly endorse the legislation yet, he also refused to kill it in its crib as McConnell has with other legislation. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) went further, specifically endorsing the bill.

The Senate version has 11 bipartisan cosponsors: six Republicans and five Democrats. 10 of the 11 cosponsors joined after Trump’s press conference comments. It awaits a potential vote in either the Foreign Affairs or Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committees.

The House version has 22 bipartisan cosponsors: 16 Democrats and six Republicans. Four of the 22 cosponsors joined after Trump’s press conference comments. It awaits a potential vote in either the House Financial Services, Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, or Intelligence Committees.

There’s also the possibility that even the legislation passes Congress, the Trump Administration could refuse to endorse it — as they declined to do in January with similar Russia sanctions passed by Congress.

Last updated Jul 26, 2018. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jan 16, 2018.


Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act of 2018

This bill requires the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), no more than 30 days after a U.S. election, to determine whether a foreign government interfered with the election and report on that determination.

If the DNI reports that there was not interference and subsequently determines that there was interference, the DNI shall report on the subsequent determination.

If the DNI determines that Russia interfered with an election, the President shall impose specified sanctions.

The President shall brief Congress on any foreign government the President determines interfered with, or is likely to interfere with, an election.