WASHINGTON — Legislation to overhaul how Congress counts presidential electoral votes should be attached to the must-pass spending omnibus bill on its way out of the Senate, Sens. Joe Manchin III and Amy Klobuchar said Wednesday.
Speaking at a National Council on Election Integrity event, Manchin said the Electoral Count Reform Act was “ready.”
“I would think the omnibus bill is the appropriate place to put it,” the West Virginia Democrat said.
Speaking later, Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, said the National Defense Authorization Act was another option, but “the omnibus is looking more and more promising.”
“That’s coming out of the meeting at the White House,” the Minnesota Democrat added. She said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer is “hopeful.”
Manchin and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine hashed out the bipartisan bill over the summer in an ad hoc committee of senators before handing the bill over to Klobuchar’s committee in September.
Collins told reporters Tuesday that she was worried about finding time in the lame-duck session to pass the legislation.
“I am concerned about the calendar and whether we can get floor time or whether we should be looking at a vehicle to attach the ECA reform,” she said.
Time is ticking, Collins warned. “It’s imperative that we reform the very ambiguous provisions of the 1887 law before we get into the next presidential election cycle,” Collins said, referring to the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act.
Manchin echoed that sentiment. The House passed a different version of the bill in September with every Democrat voting in favor, but just nine Republicans. Manchin said it’s unlikely that a Republican-led House would allow a vote on the bill next year. “We all know it needs to be done now while we have the votes and support to do it,” he said.
The bill, which the Senate Rules Committee reported out in October by a 14-1 vote, has broad support in the Senate.
“It’s probably one of the few things Sens. (Mitch) McConnell and Schumer agree on,” said Nick Penniman, the CEO of Issue One, which organized Wednesday’s series of panels focused on the 2024 elections.
The bill is one of the most substantial legislative reactions to the ransacking of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Citing ambiguities in the Electoral Count Act of 1887, some supporters of former President Donald Trump argued that objections to the electoral vote count that day would have allowed Vice President Mike Pence to set aside some states’ results. Trump seized on those theories, urging backers to rally in Washington the morning of the count. They then stormed the Capitol.
The legislation would clarify that the vice president’s role in counting electoral votes is purely ceremonial, and that he does not have the discretion to set aside any state’s properly certified votes. It would also raise the threshold to hear objections to a state’s electors from just one member in each chamber to 20 percent of Congress.
Former Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., who moderated the talk, said she’d expect the House to quickly pass the Senate version. “Clearly, if it comes out of the Senate, it goes to the House, (then) the House is going to pass this thing,” she said.
Manchin said the Senate bill was a product of compromise, noting that a provision he supported, which would have made threatening a poll worker a federal offense, was dropped to gain more GOP support. “We had people who wanted an awful lot more. They wanted to go further,” Manchin said.
If the bill doesn’t find a vehicle out of the Senate, Klobuchar said she was ready to stay in Washington to push it through the floor on its own. “The next thing we’re left with is just a group of us saying we’re not going to go home,” she said. “I don’t know how we will do it, but we’ll find some way to do it.”©2022 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Visit cqrollcall.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.