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GOP Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith Blocks Russian Election Meddling Bills

GOP Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith— She Blocks Election Security Bills to Stop Foreign Meddling August 4, 2019

Some of the most chilling comments former special counsel Robert Mueller made in his seven hours of generally dry testimony before Congress on 7/24/2019 were his pointed remarks on Russian meddling in U.S. elections. Mueller, in the NY Times’ words, “fretted that the Trump campaign’s openness to accepting Russian assistance would prove to be ‘a new normal (Fandos, N., nytimes.com, 7/24/19).’” Mueller warned that not only had the Russians not been deterred from election interference, “but they’re doing it as we sit here (Fandos, 7/24/19).” Under questioning from House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), Mueller agreed that receiving campaign assistance from a foreign power was “unpatriotic and wrong (Fandos, nytimes.com, 7/24/19).” In his opening statement to the House Judiciary Committee, Mueller flatly challenged Trump’s repeated efforts to downplay Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Mueller noted that the Russians had interfered in an attempt to help Trump win, and declared: “Our investigation found that the Russian government interfered in our election in sweeping and systematic fashion… Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious (Kristof, N., 7/24/19).” Demagogue Donald, of course, has repeatedly stated that the idea that Russia interfered in the 2016 election is “all a big hoax (huffpost.com, Blumberg, A., 7/24/19).” When Cong. Jackie Speier (D-CA) asked Mueller if he would “agree that it was not a hoax that the Russians were engaged in trying to impact our election,” Mueller answered, “Absolutely, it was not a hoax (huffpostl.com, Blumberg).”

Not only Donald, but also, his lap dog “Team Red” followers in the House and Senate still cling to the “alternative fact” that Russian meddling did not occur or continues to go on in our U.S. elections. They see the idea of Russian meddling as a “y uu ge” joke. Look at the latest procedural stunt by Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. Just hours after Mueller’s testimony over Russia’s past and continuing meddling in our elections, Sen. Hyde-Smith blocked the advancement of a trio of bills aimed at strengthening U.S. election security. These bills, advocated by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked for unanimous consent to quickly pass these bills on the Senate floor. Two of these bills would have required campaigns to report to federal authorities any attempts by foreign entities to interfere in U.S. elections. The third bill is aimed at protecting the personal accounts and devices of Senators and some staffers from hackers. In 2018, former MO Dem. Senator Claire McCaskill and NH Dem. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, an outspoken Kremlin critic, revealed that they had been targets of unsuccessful hacking attempts (huffpost.com, Bobic, 8/01/18, cnn.com, Barrett & Collier, 7/25/19, thehill.com, Carney, 7/24/19). Under Senate rules, one Senator can ask for consent to pass a bill, but any one Senator, such as Hyde-Smith, can also block this motion with an objection.

Sen. Hyde-Smith did not say if she was objecting on behalf of herself or the Senate GOP caucus. IMHO, you can be pretty sure she was following Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s orders. McConnell initially blocked Obama from discussing Russian meddling in 2016. He then stopped attempts to beef up state election security systems in 2018 (See AP, Abdollah & Cassidy, 7/25/19). McConnell claims the problems raised from the 2016 campaign have been corrected. Despite the strong warnings by Mueller and many of our national security agencies, McConnell has stated that “more does not need to be done at this time (cnn.com, Barrett & Collier, 7/25/19).” After Hyde-Smith’s hold that followed the Mueller testimony, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) rightly tweeted, “We need to act. So why have @Senate MajLdr McConnell and Senate Republicans buried commonsense election security bills in their legislative graveyard (cnn.com Barrett & Collier)?” Meet top Trump loyalist and McConnell lieutenant Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith.

First-term Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (61) is currently Mississippi’s junior Senator. Brookhaven, MS native, Hyde-Smith grew up in nearby Monticello, MS and attended that city’s Lawrence Academy. Lawrence Academy was a segregation academy established in response to U.S Supreme Court rulings ordering integration of public schools. The school’s team nickname was the “Rebels” and its mascot was a “Col. Reb” who carried a Confederate flag. Hyde-Smith later sent her own daughter to a similar school (Pittman, A., jacksonfreepress.com, 11/23/18, Politi, D., 11/24/18, slate.com). Hyde-Smith graduated from Copiah-Lincoln Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi (hydesmith.senate.gov).

From 2000-2012, Hyde-Smith was a member of the MS State Senate where she represented the 39th State District. She had a conservative voting record in that body. In 2010, she switched parties from Democratic to Republican. Her switch equally divided the MS State Senate between the two parties (hydesmith.senate.gov,dailyleader.com, 12/28/10). From 2004-2012, Hyde-Smith chaired the State Senate Agriculture Committee and was Vice-Chair of the National Agriculture Committee of State Legislators (hydesmith.senate.gov). She streamlined government regulations and received awards from the American Conservative Union and U.S. Chamber of Commerce(hydesmith.senate.gov). In 2011, Hyde-Smith, a member of a fifth-generation farming family, won election as MS Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce and was re-elected to that post in 2015 (msnewsnow.com, 3/22/18, AP, 11/04/15, hydesmith.sen.gov).

On 3/21/2018, MS GOP Gov. Phil Bryant stated he would appoint Hyde-Smith to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the resignation of ailing GOP Senator Thad Cochran, who died on 5/30/19. Hyde-Smith was sworn into office on 4/09/2018. She was the first woman to represent MS in Congress (See washingtonpost.com, 3/21/18, cnn.com, 4/09/18). Hyde-Smith ran in the 11/06/2018 special election to fill out the remainder of Cochran’s term which expires in 2021. After she and her Democratic opponent former MS Cong. and Clinton Agriculture Sec. Mike Espy finished with nearly 41% of the votes, the two ran in a runoff election on 11/27/2018. In that election, Hyde-Smith defeated Espy 53%- 46% (politico.com, 11/28/18, vox.com, Scott, D. 11/06/18). Espy declared he would oppose Sen. Hyde-Smith again in 2020 when she will run for her own 6-year term (jacksonfreepress.com, Pittman, A., 11/30/18).

In racially polarized MS, Espy made this race the closest a Democrat has come to winning a U.S. Senate seat in decades. African American Espy was able to get a high turnout of black voters in MS, a state where they make up a larger share of the electorate than in any other (huffpost.com, Bobic, I., 11/27/18). The race was also closer than it normally would have been because of Hyde-Smith’s controversial record and comments. During the runoff, Hyde-Smith, while appearing with a Tupelo cattle rancher stated, “If he (rancher Colin Hutchinson) invited me to a public hanging, I’d be in the front row.” Hyde-Smith’s “public hanging” statement rightfully drew harsh criticism because it sounded like she was referring to black lynchings, of which MS has an ugly history. Hyde-Smith downplayed her comment as an “exaggeration” and called the backlash over this remark “ridiculous.” On 11/15/2018, Hyde-Smith stated in a video clip that it would be “a great idea to make it more difficult for liberals to vote.” She later argued that she was “obviously joking,” the usual right-wing “excuse” made to play down controversial comments. Her record of attending a segregated school and sending her daughter to one as well as previously praising the Confederacy were highlighted. She once posed at Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ MS home. She wore a Confederate cap and carried a rifle. Her picture’s caption was labeled, “MS history at its best!” During the campaign, nooses, a symbol of lynching, were found near the MS state Capitol along with hateful signs that referenced Emmett Till, a 1955 MS black teenage lynching victim. Demagogue Donald rode to Hyde-Smith’s rescue by endorsing her and making the race a referendum on him, not her. In 2016, Trump carried MS by 18 points (See huffpost.com, Bobic, cnn.com, 11/12/18, Sullivan, K., foxnews.com, 11/11/18, washpost.com, Brice-Saddler, M., 11/16/18, cnn.com, Bradner & Kacznski, 11/24/18).

In the Senate, Hyde-Smith has voted with Donald 94.1% of the time. In the prior 115th Cong. she voted with him 100% of the time, and in the present 116th Congress, a “mere” 90% of the time (projectsfivethirtyeight.com). She currently sits on the influential Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry, Appropriations, Energy & Natural Resources, and Rules & Administration Committees (116th Cong. At Your Fingertips). The Senate Rules & Administration Committee, unlike its House Rules counterpart, does not set the terms for debate, since the upper chamber has a tradition of open debate. However, it deals with Senate rules and regulations, including floor rules (rules.senate.gov). Sen. Hyde-Smith was, therefore, familiar with how to put holds on bills Sen. Majority Leader Mitch “obstructionist” McConnell (R-KY) opposed.

Sen. Hyde-Smith describes herself as fiscally conservative. Although not yet in the U.S. Senate, Hyde-Smith voiced her support for the 2017 budget-busting top 1% Trump tax cut (mississippitoday.org, 3/21/18, Holler, L., bustle.com). Hyde-Smith opposes Obamacare and wants to repeal it. She claims she wants to ensure protections for pre-existing conditions, but has voted in the Senate to expand the use of short-term health insurance plans which can discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions (jacksonfreepress.com). Sen. Hyde-Smith strongly opposes abortion. She called Planned Parenthood, “one of the worst things that has ever happened to us.” In 2018, she voted with her fellow Senate GOPers to prohibit federal funding from being given to any organization that promotes abortion services or family planning, read birth control (jacksonfreepress.com, votesmart.org). She supports Donald’s major obsession, constructing a wall along the southern U.S. border (cindyhydesmith.com/issue).

In 11/2020, unlike in 11/2018, Demagogue Donald, will be on the ballot. GOP Sen. Hyde-Smith will, therefore, be highly favored to win re-election in MS on Trump’s coattails, even if Dem. Espy again puts up a tough fight. However, Espy must run hard to keep the GOP on defense while Democrats aim at taking vulnerable “Red” seats in other states. If it captures the Presidency, “Team Blue” must win a net three seats in 2020 to retake the Senate. Should Democrats retake the Senate, whether or not obstructionist McConnell gets re-elected, he will no longer be Senate Majority Leader.

The late AZ GOP Senator John McCain, unlike Hyde-Smith and her boss McConnell, was one of the few Republicans who took the threat of Russian meddling in our elections as a continuing threat that should not be seen through “the warped lens of politics.” McCain correctly saw these Russian tactics as a “threat to our democracy (USA Today, 6/29/17).” Former GOP IN Senator Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, also believes that Russian interference remains an active threat (See nytimes.com, Fandos & Roose, 7/31/18). Coats, after several clashes with Trump over this key matter, is stepping down on 8/15/2019. Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has stated he will keep pushing bills to protect our election system from foreign meddling. However, the best way to do this is to win the White House, take back the Senate, and keep the House “Blue.” Hyde-Smith will then become irrelevant.

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