WASHINGTON – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday endorsed a bill to remove the ambiguity that helped lead to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump seeking to halt certification of Joe Biden's presidential victory.
The Kentucky Republican's support all but ensures passage of the bipartisan Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, which could be approved in the coming weeks.
The measure would make clear that the vice president's role during the tally of Electoral votes is purely ceremonial, and it would make it more difficult for lawmakers to challenge and delay the count of a particular state's results.
It also bars legislatures from appointing their own electors that would go against how their state voted.
"Clearly when a 150-year old law has successfully brought us certainty, finality and one orderly presidential inauguration after another, we need to be delicate and careful with any changes," McConnell said during a Rules and Administration Committee meeting Tuesday to move the bill forward. "But the chaos that came to a head on January 6 of last year strongly suggests that we find careful ways to clarify and streamline the process."
The House last week passed a similar measure with some differences that would have to be worked out with the Senate version when it passes.
Hearing postponed: House Jan. 6 committee hearing postponed because of Hurricane Ian
Lawmakers are trying to update the Electoral Count Act because the 1887 law was central to Trump’s strategy to overturn the 2020 election, which played out the same day as the Capitol attack. By law, Jan. 6 is when Congress is required to count Electoral College votes for president from the states, historically an uncontroversial and largely symbolic ceremony two months after the election.
Trump lawyer John Eastman proposed a strategy for his supporters in seven key states that President Biden won to send alternate slates of electors to Congress.
Democracy in peril: Political tensions are growing. What is the state of American democracy?
Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said the Electoral Count Act was largely overlooked for more than a century because the power had transitioned peacefully from Republican to Democrat and back again.
"But it was at the center of a plan to overturn the 2020 election and the will of the American people that as we all know who work here culminated in a violent mob, desecrating the Capitol. On that day, enemies of our democracy sought to use this antiquated law to subvert the results of a free and fair election," she said. "It's essential that we come together to take action to ensure that it never happens again."
Contributing: Bart Jansen
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Electoral Count Act to stop Jan. 6 attack boosted by McConnell backing