Concerned about the integrity of U.S. elections after Russian meddling during the U.S. presidential race, senators are mulling a bill that would mete out severe punishment for nation-state attacks.
Concerned about the integrity of U.S. elections after Russian meddling during the U.S. presidential race, senators are mulling a bill that would mete out severe punishment for nation-state attacks.

A bipartisan bill that takes aim at protecting the U.S. elections from nation-state attacks would compel the Trump administration to levy harsh punishment on Russia for further interfering in U.S. elections and outlines the actions that would prompt the government to retaliate against other countries like China and North Korea if they similarly meddle.

The Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act (DETER), unveiled by Sen. Marco Rubio,R-Fla. and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., identified certain actions, such as leveraging social media to disseminate false information and hacking election systems, that would warrant retaliation by the U.S. government.

“We cannot be a country where foreign intelligence agencies attempt to influence our political process without consequences,” Rubio contended in a statement, noting that the bill is designed at ensuring “the integrity of our electoral process by using key national security tools to dissuade foreign powers from meddling in our elections.” 

The administration would decide what action to take against foreign actors like North Korea, China and Iran, reporting within 90 days of the bill becoming law its intentions for combatting election meddling. If Russia would take any further action against the U.S., perhaps in the 2018 midterm elections, the DEFER Act would bolster the penalties already in effect under the Countering America's Adversaries Act of 2017.

Saying that election integrity “is an issue that knows no party,” Van Hollen said, the U.S. has “no time to waste” considering the mid-terms are just months away. “The DETER Act sends an unequivocal message to Russia and any other foreign actor who may follow its example: if you attack us, the consequences will be severe.”