Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he will “proudly support” legislation to overhaul rules for certifying presidential elections, bolstering a bipartisan effort to revise a 19th century law and avoid another Jan. 6 insurrection.
The legislation would clarify and expand parts of the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which, along with the Constitution, governs how states and Congress certify electors and declare presidential winners. The changes in the certification process are in response to unsuccessful efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 defeat to Joe Biden.
“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.”
McConnell made the remarks just before the Senate Rules Committee voted 14-1 to approve the bill and send it to the Senate floor, where a vote is expected after the November election. The only senator to vote against the legislation was Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, one of two senators to stand and object to Biden's certification last year.
The GOP leader’s endorsement gave the legislation a major boost as the bipartisan group pushes to pass the bill before the end of the year and ahead of the next election cycle. Trump is still maintaining he was the victim of election fraud and saying he won the election as he considers another run in 2024.
Among the Republicans on the Rules panel who voted for the bill shortly after McConnell's statement were Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, one of only eight senators to vote against Biden's certification, and Tennessee Sen. Bill Hagerty, a strong Trump ally.
The House has already passed a more expansive bill overhauling the electoral rules, but it has far less Republican support. While the House bill received a handful of GOP votes, the Senate version already has the backing of at least 12 Republicans — more than enough to break a filibuster and pass the legislation in the 50-50 Senate.
Senators made minor tweaks to the legislation at Tuesday’s meeting but kept the bill largely intact. The bill, written by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, would make clear that the vice president only has a ceremonial role in the certification process, tighten the rules around states sending their votes to Congress and make it harder for lawmakers to object.
If it becomes law, the bill will be Congress’ strongest legislative response yet to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, in which protesters broke into the Capitol and interrupted the joint session as lawmakers were counting the votes. Once the rioters were cleared, the House and Senate rejected GOP objections to the vote in two states. But more than 140 Republicans voted to sustain them.
Differences between the House and Senate bills will have to be resolved before final passage, including language around congressional objections.
While the Senate bill would require a fifth of both chambers to agree on an electoral objection to trigger a vote, the House bill would require agreement from at least a third of House members and a third of the Senate. Currently, only one member of each chamber is required for the House and Senate to vote on whether to reject a state’s electors.
The House bill also lays out new grounds for objections, while the Senate does not.
© Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.