US House OKs Overhaul of Electoral Count Act in Bid to Avert Jan. 6 Repeat
The House chamber's legislation earlier saw opposition from Republicans, many of whom cited the fact that the bill failed to go through standard committee process as their reasoning. Cheney's involvement in the process also proved to be a thorn in the party's side.
In its first major action in response to the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol, the House of Representatives voted mostly along party lines to overhaul a centuries-old election law to prevent future presidential candidates from attempting to subvert election procedures.
The Presidential Election Reform Act,
written by Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA,) cites the Capitol attack as a reason to amend the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which governed, along with the US Constitution, how states and Congress certify electors and declare presidential election winner
The bill passed on a 229-203 vote, with only nine Republicans (none of whom will be returning to Congress next year) crossing the aisle to support the bill. Cheney, a vocal Trump critic who was defeated in her primary last month, had this to say about the bill:
“Our oath of office is to support and defend the Constitution, which provides the method by which we elect our president. Legal challenges are not improper. But Donald Trump's refusal to abide by the ruling of the courts certainly was … in the future our election process [will] reflect the will of the people.”
Trump had falsely
told his followers that former Vice President Mike Pence had the power to overturn presidential election results, while Pence maintained at the time that he had no such authority.
"Our bill reaffirms what the Constitution and existing law make plain: The vice president has no authority or discretion to reject official state electoral slates," Cheney said before the vote.
In addition to reaffirming the vice president’s role in the electoral process as ceremonial, the bill also clarifies that state legislatures can’t retroactively change election results and increases the number of lawmakers in each chamber needed to object to the verification of electors from one member to one-third of the body.
The 38-page bill also makes explicit the role governors play in the election, appearing to single out the faux election certificate scheme that saw electors in seven battleground states sign documents stating Trump had won their states.
On the House floor Wednesday, Lofgren had this to say: “Ultimately, this bill is about protecting the will of the American voters, which is a principle that is beyond partisanship. The bottom line is this — if you want to object to the vote, you better have your colleagues and the Constitution on your side. Don’t try to overturn our democracy,” she added.
The Biden administration supports the bill, saying in a statement that the administration looks forward to working with Congress “to ensure lasting reform consistent with Congress' constitutional authority to protect voting rights, tally electoral votes, and strengthen our democracy.”
A similar reform bill has been introduced in the Senate and has obtained the backing of at least 10 Republican lawmakers. However, the bill does include some differences, such as requiring just one-fifth of of lawmakers in the chamber to sign on. Talks within the chamber on how to best reconcile the legislation are ongoing.