The U.S. Congress is to consider bipartisan legislation to boost funding and modernize methods used to defend democracy abroad, reports suggest. The initiative will establish new authorities and provide additional resources to address threats to democracy, including malign foreign interference, transnational corruption, and digital authoritarianism.
Representatives Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), alongside Representatives Jason Crow (D-CO) and Joe Wilson (R-SC), will introduce the Madeleine K. Albright Democracy in the 21st Century Act, which has also been endorsed in the Senate by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
The bill would authorize the appropriation of $16.4 billion over the 2023-2027 period, according to the Congressional Budget Office, including funds that target such new threats as the proliferation of surveillance technologies. It establishes three funds designed to promote global democratic programs under the auspices of the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED):
- The Fund to Defend Democracy Globally: $20 million for the State Department and USAID to support democratic programs that bolster freedom of expression, election integrity, and the use of democratic technology.
- The Fund to Combat Corruption and Kleptocracy: $20 million for the State Department and USAID to tackle threats to emerging democracies from corruption, including aid to civil society, foreign governments, and the private sector.
- Democracy Research and Development Fund: $15 million to support research, development, and innovation within democratic programming, with an focus on technology, inter-departmental coordination and information sharing.
“As authoritarian leaders harness new technologies to buttress their power, democracies must adapt in how we fight back,” said Rep. Malinowski (D-NJ). “This legislation will better organize and equip our government to do so, with a special focus on combating most dictatorships’ greatest vulnerability — their corruption.”
“Since America’s founding, we have been a model for those who seek freedom around the world,” said Representative Cheney (R-WY). “Our country has been uniquely blessed and we have a particular duty to help ensure the defense and spread of freedom. It’s the right thing to do and our security depends upon it,” she said, adding that the bill would provide critical funding and resources to combat corruption and kleptocracy.”