Congress may be on track to safeguard the election certification process
Many of the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, were convinced it was possible for Congress and the vice president to reject the Electoral College votes from some states and declare Donald Trump the rightful winner of the 2020 election. They got this wrongheaded idea from the former president and some of his lawyers’ reading of the vaguely worded Electoral Count Act of 1887, which set the procedures Congress uses to certify the results of presidential elections.
Now, Congress is close to passing reforms to the archaic law to make sure it can’t be used to fuel another January 6-style event down the road.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) are leading the bipartisan Electoral Count Reform Act to right the ship.
According to The Hill: “The legislation would clarify that the vice president’s role in counting electoral votes is purely ceremonial, and that he does not have the discretion to set aside any state’s properly certified votes. It would also raise the threshold to hear objections to a state’s electors from just one member in each chamber to 20 percent of Congress.”
The bill has widespread support from legal experts and other stakeholders, but its odds of passing before the end of the Congress took a hit when it was left out of the annual defense authorization bill that passed the House last week.
That legislation has to pass during the lame duck and was seen as one of only a few potential avenues for the reforms to become law before the end of the current Congress.
If the new Congress were to begin without the Electoral Count Reform Act becoming law, the bill would effectively be dead and legislators would have to start from square one to try again to get it across the finish line.
There’s been good news in recent days, however.
As Congress looks to reach a funding agreement to avoid a government shutdown, lawmakers are now confident that any omnibus spending bill that comes to the floor will include the Electoral Count Reform Act, which notably has the support of both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) -- a rare moment of bipartisanship in the Senate.
Enacting the Electoral Count Reform Act would represent a real bipartisan victory not just for Congress, but for American democracy.