McConnell Throws His Support Behind Electoral Count Reform Act

September 27, 2022 by Dan McCue
McConnell Throws His Support Behind Electoral Count Reform Act
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., left, speaks to Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., as they attend a Senate Rules and Administration Committee meeting on the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. The bill is a response to the Jan. 6 insurrection and former President Donald Trump's efforts to find a way around the 19th-century law that, along with the Constitution, governs how states and Congress certify electors and declare presidential election winners. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Tuesday that he supports the Electoral Count Reform Act, which aims to protect future elections from attempts at disruption like those that transpired at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Though he hedged slightly, saying his support would hold “provided that nothing more than technical changes are made to its current form,” McConnell’s declaration that he “proudly” and “strongly” supports the legislation is a big win for the bipartisan group of senators that negotiated its details.

The Republican leader made his remarks shortly before the Senate Rules Committee marked up the bill, which updates and strengthens the 1887 Electoral College Act.

“Congress’ process for counting the presidential electors’ votes was written 135 years ago,” McConnell said. “The chaos that came to a head on Jan. 6 of last year certainly underscored the need for an update. So did Januaries 2001, 2005 and 2017; in each of which, Democrats tried to challenge the lawful election of a Republican president.

“Obviously, in every case, our system of government won out,” he continued. “The Electoral Count Act ultimately produced the right conclusion: Certainty, finality and the transfer of power to the winning candidate. But it’s clear the country needs a more predictable path to that outcome.

“This bipartisan bill does not rashly replace current law with something untested. It keeps what’s worked well and modestly updates what has not,” McConnell said, adding, “The bill’s sponsors debated every provision and found bipartisan consensus. Bad ideas were left on the cutting room floor.

“The resulting product — this bill, as introduced — is the only chance to get an outcome and make law,” he said.

The legislation, which currently has 22 co-sponsors (11 Republicans and 11 Democrats), would clarify the vice president’s limited role in the counting of electoral votes and protect the will of the voters by better ensuring that lawful state-level determinations of election results are respected by Congress, including by raising the threshold for members of Congress to make objections.

The bill also establishes guardrails against state actors who try to disregard election results. In particular, the legislation would require states to appoint electors on Election Day except in narrow and extraordinary circumstances, such as a major natural disaster, and require Congress to count electoral votes that the courts have determined comply with state and federal law. 

Shortly after McConnell spoke, the Rules Committee voted to advance the Electoral Count Reform Act on a bipartisan vote of 14-1.

Justin Goodman, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., then released a statement, saying Schumer “looks forward to continuing to have bipartisan, bicameral discussions about the best way to ensure Electoral Count Act reform legislation is signed into law soon.”

“Make no mistake: as our country 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 ought to be the bare minimum of action the Congress takes,” Goodman said.

Genevieve Nadeau, counsel with Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan group dedicated to protecting the integrity of free and fair elections, said in a statement that the bipartisan vote to advance the Electoral Count Reform Act by the Rules Committee “underscores the momentum and cross-ideological consensus on the urgent need for Congress to update the Electoral Count Act and strengthen presidential elections in the future.”

“We applaud the Senate Rules Committee for making meaningful improvements to the ECRA, progress that complements House action on a similar reform bill last week. We now call on Congress to finish the job and pass the strongest ECA reform possible by the end of the year,” Nadeau said.

The House version of the bill, known as the Presidential Election Reform Act, was approved in a 229-203 vote last week.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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