House Democrats on Wednesday night approved a sweeping election security bill, known as the SHIELD Act, in an effort to combat foreign influence in American elections.
The bill seeks to address foreign election interference by requiring American political campaigns to alert the FBI and the Federal Election Commission of illicit offers of election help from foreign nationals. It would also subject political advertisements on digital platforms like social media websites to election rules already in place for television and radio political advertisements.
It passed on a vote of 227-181.
“Free and fair elections are at the core of what it means to live in a democracy like ours. Free and fair elections are at the heart of what it means to be a citizen of the United States. It is our solemn duty to defend them,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat and the lead sponsor of the bill, said during floor debate Wednesday.
Republicans widely voted against the bill, with many arguing the legislation could undermine free speech. It is unlikely to advance in the GOP-held Senate.
“It’s a transparent attack on the First Amendment that has united an unlikely band of opponents across the political spectrum,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said of the measure prior to the House vote.
The bill’s passage contributes to the larger ongoing debate between Democrats and Republicans over how to address foreign election interference.
Last month, after repeatedly clashing with Democrats on election security funding, McConnell threw his support behind allocating $250 million in state grants to boost election security. But Democratic lawmakers say regulatory reforms are also needed to address the problem.
Democrats in the Senate this week have sought to pass various election security proposals by unanimous consent, but Republicans have blocked their repeated requests to approve the bills.