House Passes Electoral Count Overhaul, Move To Avoid Another January 6 Crisis


WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday took the first major step to respond to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, which voted largely along party lines to pass the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act, the law that former President Donald J Trump tried that day. to undo his defeat.

The bill was the most significant legislative response to date to the riots and the months-long campaign by Mr. Trump and his allies to invalidate the 2020 presidential election, but it also underscored the continuing partisan divisions over Jan. former president at his party.

It approved a divided House, receiving 229 to 203 votes. All but nine Republicans opposed the measure, wary of angering Trump and unwilling to support legislation co-written by Representative Liz Cheney, a Republican of Wyoming and a leader of the House select committee responsible for the events. of January 6, and what led to it.

The partisan divisions could complicate future negotiations with the Senate, which is advancing on its own bipartisan version of legislation that diverges from House law in a number of important ways. Lawmakers now say they don’t expect final approval before Congress returns for a slack session after the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

The legislation aims to update the law governing the counting of electoral votes cast by states, the final step under the constitution to confirm the results of a presidential election and historically a largely ceremonial process. Democrats said the aftermath of the 2020 election, when Mr. Trump and his allies launched a failed plan to throw out legitimate electoral votes and keep him in power, led to the violent disruption of the Congressional tally by his supporters on January 1. 6, made it clear that the statute needed to be changed.

“These are common sense reforms that will preserve the rule of law for all future elections,” said Massachusetts Democrat Representative James P. McGovern and chairman of the Rules Committee. “Time is running out for the next election.”

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An important provision in the bill, which is also included in the Senate proposal, would clarify that the role of the vice president, who by law presides over the vote counting in his capacity as Senate president, is strictly ministerial. is. After the 2020 election, Mr. Trump and his advisers tried to convince Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to accept election votes from states where Trump falsely claimed he had won.

The measure would also significantly raise the threshold for Congress to consider an objection to a state’s electoral votes, requiring at least a third of the House and Senate to sign such a challenge, dramatically higher than one member. of every room that is now required. The Senate proposal has a lower threshold, requiring one-fifth of the House and Senate to approve.

Members of both parties have raised objections in recent elections, but none have been supported by a majority of the House and Senate. The House bill would also more narrowly define grounds for objection to those with a defined constitutional basis.

“Ultimately, this bill is about protecting the will of American voters, which is a principle beyond bias,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren, the California Democrat who heads the Administrative Commission and introduced the measure to Ms. Cheney. “The bottom line is that if you want to object to the vote, you’d better have your colleagues and the Constitution by your side.”

The legislation is also in direct response to Mr. Trump’s efforts to orchestrate the filing of false voter rolls in states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. It would require states to elect their voters according to pre-election laws, a provision designed to prevent states from changing course if they don’t like the result. And the bill would allow candidates to sue state officials if they failed to submit their voters or certified voters who didn’t match the election results.

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It would also set out the circumstances in which a federal judge could extend an election after a catastrophe and force election officials to count the votes or certify an election if they refused to do so.

Republicans said the legislation was a renewed Democratic effort to exert more federal control over elections, which are usually the responsibility of state officials and courts.

Representative Tom Cole, Republican from Oklahoma, called it “another effort to federalize elections at the expense of states.” Other Republicans accused Democrats of rushing legislation without review by the appropriate committees or involving Republicans.

They also accused Democrats of using the bill to target Mr. Trump, portraying the legislation as an extension of the work of the special committee investigating Jan. 6, which most House Republicans decry as a partisan exercise to blame Mr Trump for the attack on the Capitol.

“This is nothing more than an attack on President Trump and the 2020 election, an attack on a man who has been out of office for nearly two years,” said Pennsylvania Republican Representative Guy Reschenthaler.

Lawmakers said the legislation’s close cooperation with Ms. Cheney resulted in House Republicans leaving it in large numbers. Her aggressive criticism of Mr Trump led Republicans to remove her from party leadership in May, and she lost her reelection scoop last month.

But Ms. Cheney noted strong support for the move from conservative lawyers and analysts and called on Republicans to embrace it.

“If your goal is to prevent future election-stealing attempts, I would respectfully request Conservatives to support this bill,” she said on the House floor. “If your goal instead is to leave the door open to elections that will be stolen in the future, you may decide not to support this or any other bill to address the Election Count Act.”

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Leaders of the bipartisan group behind the Senate bill, which was made public in July, were surprised by the House’s sudden action against the legislation just days after it was introduced and after months with little detail on how to move the House. work went. Supporters of the Senate bill said the House’s approach could lead to more election processes, a prospect the Republican opposition could magnify. But they remain hopeful that the accounts can be reconciled.

“We can work together to try to bridge the significant differences,” said Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins and one of the lead authors of the Senate bill. “But it would have been better if we had been consulted before the house sponsors decided to drop their bill.”

The Senate Rules Committee will discuss that chamber’s version next week. Minnesota Democrat and panel chair Senator Amy Klobuchar is preparing a new draft that will incorporate the changes requested by election experts and other lawmakers in hopes of increasing the likelihood of approval. The legislation has at least 10 Republican supporters so far, meaning it could conquer a GOP filibuster if all Democrats supported it.

Despite the differences, proponents of the legislation said it should become law.

“Failure is not an option,” said California Representative Pete Aguilar, a member of the Democratic leadership and Jan. 6 panel. “We need to put a piece of reform on the president’s desk. We must protect democracy.”

The post House Passes Electoral Count Overhaul, Move To Avoid Another Jan 6 Crisis appeared first on New York Times.


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