No more overturning elections: The U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee on Tuesday passed legislation that would update an 1887 elections law

WASHINGTON — In an effort to prevent another attempt to overturn a presidential election, the Rules and Administration Committee of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved legislation that would modernize a law from 1887 and clarify how electoral votes are verified.

Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Republican Roy Blunt of Missouri introduced S. 4573, the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act. The objective is to prevent a repeat of the January 6 uprising, in which former President Donald Trump attempted to manipulate the results of the 2020 presidential election by claiming a 19th-century law.

In her opening remarks, Klobuchar stated, “On that day, adversaries of our democracy attempted to use this ancient legislation to undermine the outcome of a free and fair election.”

The bill was approved by the committee by a vote of 14-1, practically unanimous. Texas Republican Ted Cruz was the sole senator present to vote against it.

Cruz characterized the legislation as “awful” and questioned why Republicans would support it.

Cruz stated, “This law is entirely about Donald J. Trump.”

Senators Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New Yorker, were not present but voted in favor by proxy.

Earlier in September, the House of Representatives passed its version of the bill by a vote of 229-203, with nine Republicans joining Democrats.

Trump and Vice President Pence

After the attack on the Capitol on January 6, during which Trump urged former Vice President Mike Pence to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election results, Blunt stated that there was broad bipartisan support to amend the statute. In the Electoral Count Act, the vice president’s involvement in the certification of electoral votes is unclear.

“We discovered last year that it was obsolete and in need of change,” Blunt added.

Klobuchar, the committee chair, stated that the bill required months of bipartisan effort from the committee and other Senate colleagues.

Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, stated that the committee did not attempt to “reinvent the wheel” but rather updated the statute with great care.

Warner stated, “We did spent a great deal of time trying to get it perfect.”

In addition, he urged the commission to consider defending future elections from cyberattacks.

Bipartisan backing

The Senate has bipartisan support for the bill.

Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, and Joe Manchin III, a Democrat from West Virginia, managed to gain the backing of 11 Republican and 11 Democratic senators to cosponsor the bill, achieving the 60-vote filibuster threshold.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, stated on the Senate floor on Tuesday that he “proudly supports” the revision of the Electoral Count Act.

McConnell stated, “I heartily support the minor improvements that our colleagues in the working group have elaborated after months of extensive deliberation.”

The timetable of the bill’s eventual passage is still uncertain, but it could be considered during the post-election lame-duck session of Congress.

Blunt stated, “We’ll proceed into next year with this completed.”

Schumer has not disclosed when he will put the bill up for a vote in the Senate.

“Make no mistake,” Schumer stated in a statement. “As our nation continues to face the threat of the anti-democracy MAGA Republican movement — propelled by many GOP leaders who either refused to take a stand or actively stoked the flames of division in our country — reforming the Electoral Count Act should be the bare minimum action taken by Congress.”

Committee member McConnell attended the meeting and reaffirmed his support.

“The Electoral Count Act requires modernization after 150 years,” he stated.

Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, stated that the bill “seeks just to clarify the law.”

Senate version

The two provisions of the Senate bill are the Electoral Count Reform Act and the Presidential Transition Improvement Act.

The Electoral Count Reform Act declares that the vice president’s role in presiding over Congress during the certification of electors is ceremonial and that the vice president lacks the authority to oppose, accept, or adjudicate disputes over electors.

In particular, it raises the bar for legislators to oppose to voters. In accordance with the current law, only one House representative and one senator are required to object to an elector or slate of electors. Under the amendments to the measure, a fifth of members from both chambers would be required to file an objection.

The act also includes many modifications for each state’s electors. It specifies the governor of each state as the official responsible for providing the state’s official document identifying the state’s appointed electors and states that Congress cannot accept this document from any other official.

According to the bill’s summary, “this measure would prevent numerous state officials from sending rival slates to Congress.”

This reform is necessary because Trump and his team attempted to replace genuine slates of electors in multiple states with fraudulent electors who would vote for Trump, as the committee investigating the attack on the Capitol outlined on January 6.

The act also provides for expedited judicial review of any challenges, including a three-judge panel and direct appeal to the Supreme Court.

The bill also eliminates a clause in the legislation “that may be utilized by state legislatures to overrule the popular vote in their states by proclaiming a ‘failed election,'” according to the bill’s summary. This provision is amended by specifying that a state may only postpone its presidential election day to the following first Monday in November every four years if “exceptional and catastrophic” events occur.

According to the synopsis of the law, the Presidential Transition Improvement Act specifies “when eligible candidates for President and Vice President may receive federal resources to facilitate their transition into office.”

It allows eligible candidates to receive transition funds during the brief time period “during which the outcome of a presidential election is plausibly contested.”

Protection of Election Workers Act

Separately, Klobuchar and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, filed legislation on Tuesday to assist protect election workers, who have faced a rise in violent threats.

The measure would offer funding to states to assist with the recruitment, training, and safety of election workers.

“Those aiming to undermine our democracy are bombarding election workers with threats,” Klobuchar said in a statement.

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