McConnell gives big boost to Senate’s Electoral Count Act bill

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that he supports the Electoral Count Reform Act, which aims to protect future elections by making changes to the 1887 Electoral Count Act.

McConnell’s support gives a big boost to the legislation led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), in part a response to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol that took place as Congress was trying to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“I strongly support the Collins legislation as introduced, and assuming that we make no changes here today, or at the most technical changes, I’ll be proud to vote for it and to help advance it,” McConnell said in a floor speech prior to the Rules Committee markup of the bill.

McConnell is taking on former President Trump by backing the bill. Trump has pressed Republicans to oppose the legislation, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) voted against a House version of the bill approved last week.

The Electoral Count Reform Act would clarify some procedures described by the 1887 law, including the roles of the vice president as well as state lawmakers in verifying the election of a president.

The bill introduces reforms to recognize a single, conclusive slate of electors in each state — battling a Trump plan to send “fake” elector certificates from key states won by President Biden.

It also affirms that the vice president’s role in the election is “solely ministerial” and raises the threshold for objecting to a state’s Electoral College results. Currently just one member of each chamber can object to a state’s results, but the bill would require one-fifth of each body to back the effort.

These changes would make it more difficult to make the kinds of challenges to the 2020 presidential election that took place on Jan. 6. On that day, after weeks in which Trump had insisted without evidence that the election had been stolen from him, a mob invaded the Capitol, forcing the evacuation of lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence and temporarily delaying the certification.

Many in the mob thought Pence could stop the results of the certification of the Electoral College by a joint session of Congress. The law also currently allows one member of the House and one member of the Senate from a state’s congressional delegation to object to their state’s Electoral College results, which forces votes by the full House and Senate on the objection.

A similar bill was introduced and passed by House lawmakers last week after it was forwarded by two members of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

The House’s Presidential Election Reform Act was approved in a 229-203 vote on Wednesday.

The nine Republicans who backed the bill included the two members of the party on the Jan. 6 committee, Cheney and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), as well as others who have been critical of the 2021 insurrection.

The Senate and House proposals differ in a few ways, including a provision in the House bill that would require one-third of each chamber to back a vote to challenge a state’s electoral results.

McConnell referred to the House bill as a “non-starter” in his speech on Tuesday but did not explain why he took that view.

The Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday adopted some new provisions that hew closely to measures included in the House bill, including one measure that would allow officials to delay elections in the cases of an “act of god,” essentially allowing officials to declare a failed election largely due to events like natural disasters.

Cheney said last week the provision was designed to prevent future situations where “false claims of fraud could be made to allow a state to refuse to certify valid votes.”

Updated at 6:18 p.m.

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