Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) abruptly caved Thursday and backed a $250 million plan to enhance election security after blocking the proposal for more than a year.
The GOP leader said he was “proud” to push for the funding to "help states improve their defenses and shore up their voting systems,” even though he led Republican opposition to the bill since it was introduced months before last year’s midterm elections.
Republicans are touchy about election security because some see moves to protect voting systems as an implicit endorsement of claims that Trump’s campaign was boosted by Russian interference.
McConnell’s recalcitrance earned him the derisive nickname “Moscow Mitch,” a moniker to which he strongly objects.
The bill would provide funding to states for upgrading voting machines and other security enhancements. It still falls far short of the $600 million in a bill passed by the Democratic-led House of Representatives.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) office said it was significant that McConnell and Republicans had “finally backed down” on election security.
“Senate Republicans have finally relented and taken a step in the right direction,” Schumer’s office said in a statement.
Intelligence experts say Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 presidential election on Trump’s behalf. Trump and some Republicans suggest the threat is overblown and believe claims are used to discredit the president.