WASHINGTON – Committee on House Administration Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) released his opening statement ahead of today’s markup of the Democrats’ proposed legislation, H.R. 4617, the SHIELD Act. The bill aims at preventing foreign interference in our election systems but falls short of accomplishing that goal by failing to address the primary method Russia used to influence the 2016 Presidential election, as well as inflicting broad requirements for online advertisements that will have a chilling effect on free speech and mandating more overreach from the federal government in our elections.
Ranking Member’s remarks as prepared:
I have said time and time again as Ranking Member on this Committee that the biggest threat to the integrity of our elections is partisanship. As the majority has pointed out, there are legitimate election security concerns that H.R. 4617 aims to address that I know my Democratic colleagues and I agree upon.
Which leads me to wonder, if the majority knows we support large portions of this bill, why would they not work with us to find a bipartisan solution to our collective concerns? Once again, the majority has chosen to continue this pattern we’ve seen all Congress where they rush legislation, without any hearings or public discussion of the issues, and insert poison pills into a bill that they know we will not support, all in an effort to prop-up their unfounded impeachment efforts against the President.
That’s why we’re here today, not to make real, legislative progress on preventing foreign interference in our elections, but to push partisan politics for the Democratic agenda. We have marked up 3 comprehensive election security bills in this Committee this Congress, and the partisan approach to every problem always ends with expanding the powers of the federal government. The highlight of this bill being that we are vastly expanding the powers of the Attorney General and my personal favorite – defining “legitimate” news.
What we aren’t going to hear about today is the work done last Congress and earlier this Congress to provide funding for election infrastructure and to create unprecedented cooperation among the states and federal stakeholders aimed at better securing our elections. What we aren’t going to hear about today is how many of the private companies and online platforms mentioned in this bill are already taking important steps to help prevent election interference through social media. What we aren’t going to hear about today is how we’re marking up this bill without a hearing, so the America public can see who is paying for and supporting the ads they see in their social media feeds and won’t actually stop the sort of interference we saw from Russia in the 2016 election.
Don’t get me wrong, there are provisions in this legislation that make sense, like prohibiting foreign nationals from participating in ballot initiatives and requiring the Federal Election Commission to annually audit and report any foreign money in U.S. elections. I am also supportive of disclosing online political ads.
However, there are also provisions in this bill, like broadly defined requirements for who has to disclose ads, as well as applying aging television regulations to internet advertising, that I cannot support because of the threat they pose to the First Amendment.
I believe the SHIELD Act will have many unintended, but severe consequences on the American people and a chilling effect on free speech, a fundamental right we in Congress have a responsibility to defend.
H.R. 4617, in my opinion, is unfixable in its current form. The amendments we put forth today will only showcase the hypocrisy and flaws within this legislation. If we truly want to prevent the type of election interference that we saw in 2016, we must put forth the strongest legislation possible that actually stands a chance at becoming law.
We may never be able to prevent criminal activity, whether that’s in our elections or in our day-to-day lives, but we can provide our law enforcement with the best tools and resources available. A better approach to the concerns mentioned today would be to update the Foreign Agent Registration Act, which this legislation completely ignores.
It’s disappointing for the American people who deserve a bipartisan bill, that allows them to trust in their election system, that actually stands a chance of becoming law. I look forward to debating my amendments that will make improvements to this partisan bill.
Let us forget the partisan politics today and instead put the needs of the American people first. Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time.
CLICK HERE to read more about why the SHIELD Act doesn’t solve anything.
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