The Senate will incorporate the annual intelligence policy legislation into the National Defense Authorization Act – but only after stripping language from the intelligence bill that would have required presidential campaigns to report offers of foreign election help.
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday that Senate Republicans forced the removal of the election reporting provision as a condition to include the intelligence bill on the must-pass defense policy legislation.
Earlier this month, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved an amendment on an 8-7 vote from Warner and GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, which added a provision to the Intelligence Authorization Act requiring campaigns to notify federal authorities about offers of foreign election help.
That bill, however, was unlikely to get Senate floor time on its own, which is why it’s being included in the National Defense Authorization Act. The effort to strip the foreign election help provision from the intelligence bill was not a surprise, as acting Senate Intelligence Chairman Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, predicted earlier this month it would be removed before the bill was on the floor, because of an objection from the Senate Rules Committee.
Warner bemoaned what he called a “back-room deal” to strip out the provision.
“If my Republican colleagues want to strip this legislation out of the NDAA behind closed doors, then I’m going to offer it up as an amendment to force an up-or-down vote and put every member of this body on the record,” Warner said on the Senate floor.
The amendment approved by the Intelligence Committee was an adopted version of Warner’s FIRE Act, which he introduced last year. It would require all presidential campaign officials report to the FBI any contacts with foreign nationals trying either to make campaign donations or coordinate with a campaign.
Warner tried to bring up his bill on the Senate floor several times over the past year, but Republicans objected each time. When Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, blocked the bill in June 2019, calling it a “blatant political stunt.” President Donald Trump applauded her efforts on Twitter.
It’s not clear if Warner’s amendment will get a vote. The Senate is debating the defense authorization legislation on the floor this week.