A bipartisan measure that would require new sanctions against any foreign nation caught meddling in U.S. elections got the backing this week of Maine’s senior senator, Republican Susan Collins.

The Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines bill would require extensive, tough sanctions within 10 days of a declaration by the director of national intelligence that Russia was interfering in an American political campaign for the presidency, Senate or House.

Collins said it is meant to deter the Russians from continuing to meddle in U.S. elections.

“It would hit the Russians really hard,” she told Bangor radio station WVOM on Wednesday.

The measure was introduced by U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and has since picked up four other Democrats and five more Republicans as co-sponsors, including Collins.

Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that doing more to deter the Russians is a necessity.


“All the evidence that I’ve seen shows the Russians are still at it,” Collins told WVOM morning hosts George Hale and Ric Tyler.

“We know for certain that the Russians were relentless in their efforts to meddle in the 2016 elections,” Collins said in a prepared statement. “This legislation will help to secure our elections, the cornerstone of our democracy, by swiftly imposing harsh sanctions” if Russia again attempts “to influence or undermine faith in our electoral process.”

She said on the radio that the proposal she supports, which is likely to reach the Senate floor, “would send the kind of powerful message that has been lacking” so far.

The bill said that if the Kremlin tries to interfere with a federal election again, a mandatory set of severe sanctions would be imposed.

They include measures against senior Russian political and business figures to block their travel and access to personal assets. It would also slap new restrictions on key economic sectors such as finance, energy, defense, and metals and mining.

“We need a vigorous response” that can be put in place quickly, Collins said.


She said she is concerned that a cybersecurity expert told her recently that Russia likely sought to probe the voting systems of every U.S. state in 2016. Collins said that in most cases they appear to have focused on voter registration files, though there’s no evidence anything was changed by hackers.

But it left her wondering, she said, “Why do they want to do that?” Perhaps to get ready to interfere in future elections, Collins guessed.

Russia wouldn’t be the only country watched for potential meddling.

Others identified as possible threats — including China, North Korea and Iran — might also try to exploit American elections, Collins said. The bill requires the administration to come up with a plan to prevent interference from them and others.

Among the other co-sponsors of the bill are U.S. Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., the Democratic leader on the Intelligence Committee, and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Reuters reported that Rubio and Van Hollen wrote last week to the chairs of the Senate Banking and Foreign Relations committees to hold hearings on the measure by early August.


Collins said she is sure there will be a hearing on it soon.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, mentioned the bill last week as one the Senate might pass.

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From left, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., listen last year as Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. (AP file photo)

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