December 9, 2023

A bill to reform and strengthen the Electoral Count Act that aims at heading off future attempts to subvert presidential elections is expected to be considered by the House as soon as Wednesday. 

The bill, spearheaded by Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, is meant to prevent a recurrence of what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, when rioters overran the Capitol, causing an hours-long delay in Congress’ affirmation of the electoral votes. 

The purpose of the amended Presidential Election Reform Act is to ensure Congress receives an electoral certificate from each state that accurately reflects the vote of the people and that Congress counts electoral votes as required by the Constitution. It also reaffirms that the role of the vice president of the United States is merely ministerial — after then-President Trump pressured Vice President Mike Pence to reject electoral votes and overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election

“What Donald Trump tried to convince the vice president to do was illegal under existing law and we begin by affirming that but we need to then take steps to make sure that another Jan. 6 is something that never happens again,” Cheney said on a call Tuesday. 

The American flag is seen in front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022.

Mariam Zuhaib / AP

In a Sunday op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Cheney and Loefgren said the proposal is “is intended to preserve the rule of law for all future presidential elections by ensuring that self-interested politicians cannot steal from the people the guarantee that our government derives its power from the consent of the governed.”

The measure would also raise the threshold for any objection made by the Senate and House to a state’s electoral votes. Instead of a single member from each house, one-third of each house would have to object, and the act would also list the constitutional grounds that could be cited by members who wish to object.

Cheney and Lofgren are both members of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, and Cheney’s continued vocal criticism of Trump’s handling of that day has wedged her out of Republican Party leadership and she lost a primary for her seat to a Trump-backed challenger. 

The bill, which would also need to clear the Senate, also clarifies that the Constitution prohibits election officials from refusing to count ballots or certify elections in accordance with state election laws. Republican election officials in multiple states declined to certify primary election results this year.

House GOP leadership is telling Republican members to vote against the bill. 

Pence has stood by his decision to certify the 2020 presidential election results, and earlier this year said Trump was “wrong” to claim he as vice president had the power to do anything else. Pence also released a letter on Jan. 6 saying he lacks the authority to decide the election. 

“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Pence said in a statement that day, facing unrelenting pressure from Trump. 

That pressure on Pence to overturn the 2020 election has been a key focus of the Jan. 6 committee. The committee hopes to have another hearing on Sept. 28, after a summer hiatus. Cheney on Tuesday said there will be other legislative recommendations to come out of the committee, but didn’t suggest what they might be.

— Rebecca Kaplan and Zachary Hudak contributed to this report 

Source link