- The bill designates the vice president’s role in Electoral College vote counts as ceremonial.
- The bill raises the threshold to challenge state electors in Congress to 20% of the House and Senate.
WASHINGTON – Legislation to overhaul the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which was at the heart of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, is included in the spending bill Congress will debate and vote on this week.
The compromise arrives as the legislative clock ticks down on the current session of Congress. The spending package must be approved in some form in order to keep the government functioning until Oct. 1, so including the election bill in the 4,155-page legislation improves its chances for passage.
Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who led negotiations on the election bill, said Tuesday in a joint statement the bill would fix “flaws of the archaic and ambiguous” law.
Here is the latest about the election legislation:
- The compromise raises the threshold to challenge presidential electors from the states to 20% of the House and Senate, rather than the current one lawmaker from each chamber.
- The House had voted to raise the threshold to one-third of the lawmakers from each chamber, but the compromise stuck with the Senate position of 20%.
- The bill explicitly states the vice president’s role in overseeing the counting of Electoral College votes is ceremonial, which both chambers sought to clarify.
- When states submit official slates of electors, their documents must bear the state seal and contain at least one security feature verifying its authenticity.
- Any legal challenge to state electors in federal court would be expedited and heard by a District Court panel of three judges comprised of two appellate judges and one district judge.
- Appeals would head straight to the Supreme Court.
Election overhaul drew broad bipartisan support
Two members of the House committee that investigated the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, drafted the House version: Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. The House had approved their version in September by a vote of 229-203.
The Senate version was negotiated by a dozen bipartisan lawmakers and won a key endorsement from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Legislation aims to reduce confusion about Electoral College vote count
Congress counts Electoral College votes from the states on Jan. 6 after a presidential election. The event is historically tedious, but became a flashpoint for a riot in 2021 as Trump fought to overturn the election results.
John Eastman, one of Trump’s personal lawyers, proposed a strategy for his supporters in seven key states that President Joe Biden won to send alternate slates of electors to Congress.
If those states flipped to Trump, Eastman argued he could potentially have won the election. If fake electors created enough confusion about a state’s results, Eastman argued Vice President Mike Pence single-handedly could have thrown the election to the House where GOP lawmakers could potentially have kept Trump as president because Republicans controlled a majority of state delegations.
But Pence refused to participate in the scheme. That is why rioters set up a gallows outside the Capitol and chanted “hang Mike Pence” as they rampaged through the building.
U.S. District Judge David Carter ruled in a case dealing with a committee subpoena that Trump and Eastman “more likely than not” dishonestly conspired to obstruct Congress through the scheme.