Senate group unveils bill to avoid repeat of Jan. 6
(The Hill) — A group of bipartisan senators led by Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have unveiled legislation clarifying that the vice president does not have the power to overturn the results of a presidential election and making it harder for lawmakers to object to the results of the Electoral College vote.
The introduction of legislation follows months of negotiations in which senators sought to respond to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, when a mob of pro-Trump protesters tried to stop Congress’s certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.
It reforms the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which many senators thought was too vague and which former President Donald Trump tried to exploit to stop Joe Biden’s transition to power.
The bill would make it explicitly clear that a sitting vice president only has a “ministerial” role when Congress convenes to certify the results of a presidential election and has no authority to overturn the results.
The legislation would require at least one-fifth of the membership of each chamber of Congress to lodge an objection to any state’s slate of electors.
And it would identify state governors as responsible for submitting certificates identifying slates of electors unless state law specifies otherwise.
The legislation directly responds to former Trump’s claims that then-Vice President Mike Pence had the power not to recognize Biden’s victory in the Electoral College after winning the 2020 election by more than 7 million votes.
The senators who negotiated the proposal said they consulted with a wide variety of election experts and legal experts.
“We have developed legislation that establishes clear guidelines for our system of certifying and counting electoral votes for president and vice president. We urge our colleagues in both parties to support these simple, commonsense reforms,” they said in a joint statement.
Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Lisa Murkowksi (R-Alaska), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) participated in the negotiations and are expected to vote for the measure.
The legislation provides for expedited judicial review of disputes over a state’s slate of electors, authorizing a three-judge panel to resolve challenges and setting up a fast track for the Supreme Court to hear appeals.
The accelerated judicial review would be available only to presidential candidates.
The legislation clarifies that Congress would have to defer to the slates of electors submitted by state officials.
It would make clear that the vice president does not have the power to solely determine or adjudicate disputes over electors.
Sasse praised the legislation as “a good bill” and highlighted provisions “clarifying the vice president’s limited role and increasing the threshold for objections.”
“This bill cleans up some ambiguity in the ECA that was dishonestly exploited on Jan. 6,” he said.