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US senators eye narrow fixes to raise bar for election challenges

Ryan Teague Beckwith and Laura Litvan, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell threw his support Tuesday behind a bipartisan bill that would raise the bar for challenging presidential election results, boosting chances it will clear Congress this year.

The Senate bill, McConnell said, makes “modest” fixes to the process of counting electors and has a better chance of getting through Congress than a more expansive version passed by the House last week.

“I strongly support the modest changes that our colleagues in the working group have fleshed out after literally months of detailed discussions,” he said on the Senate floor. “I’ll proudly support the legislation, provided that nothing more than technical changes are made to its current form.”

The endorsement came shortly before the Senate Rules Committee approved the bill, which was spurred by Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election and the ensuing attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

While the House version of the bill passed with mostly Democratic support, under Senate rules the legislation requires at least 10 Republicans in the 50-50 chamber to pass. The full Senate isn’t expected to act on the bill until after the November congressional elections.

In a brisk 45-minute hearing, McConnell and other Republicans on the Rules Committee joined Democrats to approve the technical changes and the bill itself. Only Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who objected to Biden electors from Arizona and Pennsylvania on Jan. 6, voted against the bill in committee, arguing that it would make it harder for Congress to address voter fraud and would interfere with state administration of elections.

 

“What this bill is trying to do is take Congress out of the business of trying to correct fraud,” he said.

Both bills would greatly raise the number of representatives and senators needed to raise an objection to a state’s electors and force a vote, create a fast-track process to rein in governors who refuse to certify an election and strike vague language from the 1887 Electoral Count Act that Trump and his allies sought to exploit in order to delay or stop certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.

The House version goes further in several areas, including allowing judges to restrict local officials who refuse to certify an election.

That has become a concern in recent months as officials in a New Mexico county initially refused to certify the results of a primary while three Pennsylvania counties refused to count certain mail ballots until state and federal judges ordered them to do so. Local officials in Colorado, Georgia and other states are also under investigation for allowing unauthorized access to voting machines in attempts to prove fraud.

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