WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill updating a 19th-century law in an effort to prevent subversion of future presidential elections.
The Presidential Election Reform Act, which passed 229-203, aims to deter a repeat of the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising, in which the U.S. Capitol was attacked by a mob of pro-Trump supporters trying to prevent Congress from certifying presidential electoral votes.
Nine House Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the measure, HR 8873, which would revamp the voter count law.
“If your goal is to prevent future efforts to steal the election, I would respectfully suggest that conservatives support this bill,” Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, told the House. “If instead your goal is to leave the door open for elections to be stolen in the future, you might decide not to support this bill or any other bill regarding the voter count.”
Cheney, along with Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece on Sunday that the bill “aims to preserve the rule of law for all future presidential elections by ensuring that interested politicians cannot rob the people of the guarantee that our government derives its power from the consent of the governed”.
In the House, Lofgren said the bill “will make it harder to convince people that they have the right to overturn the election.”
Both lawmakers are on the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The bill raises the threshold for objection to a state’s electoral vote from one member of each house to one-third of each house, a steep increase, and clarifies that the vice president’s role in certifying electoral votes is purely ceremonial.
A majority of Republicans pushed back against the bill, with Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois calling it partisan and Rep. Bryan Steil of Wisconsin calling the process rushed.
Davis said Democrats are perpetuating a false narrative that Republicans are Holocaust deniers and want to void the election, while Steil said Americans have lost faith in their electoral system and the bill does nothing to appease those fears.
“Will the bill before us build people’s confidence in our electoral process? Steil asked. “The bill fails the test.”
Virginia’s U.S. House delegation split along party lines on Wednesday, with all Democratic representatives voting for the bill and all Republicans voting against.
The house rules committee held a hearing on the measure on Tuesday and voted 9-3 to send the bill to the House floor. All Democrats on that committee voted for the bill and all Republicans who voted against it.
The push to clarify the election certification process comes after former President Donald Trump tried to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to block certification of the 2020 presidential election results.
The January 6 insurgency, spurred on by Trump, soon followed. Four people in the crowd died and five police officers responding to the insurrection also died in the days and weeks that followed.
Current law allows a congressional representative paired with a senator to oppose a state’s electoral votes, which Republicans did. But they were cut short in their objections when the crowd of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.
Because the vice president’s role in certifying electoral votes is not entirely clear, Trump has tried to pressure Pence not to certify the election.
Trump was impeached by the House for the second time for his role in the insurgency.
The future of the House measure is unclear as the Senate works on its own legislation.
The Senate held a hearing in August at which the senses. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, and Joe Manchin III, a Democrat from West Virginia, argued for the need to update the Elections Act of 1887.
The senators said the current law is archaic and ambiguous, and their bill included several reforms, including clarifying the role of the vice president when certifying electoral votes.
Collins announced Wednesday that she has 10 Democratic and 10 Republican co-sponsors for the bill, meaning its passage could hit the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome the filibuster in the Senate.
“Our bill is supported by election law experts and organizations across the ideological spectrum,” Collins said in a statement. “We will continue to work to build bipartisan support for our legislation that would correct the flaws in this archaic and ambiguous law.”
Those 10 Senate Democrats include Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mark Warner of Virginia, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Chris Coons of Delaware, John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet of Colorado and Alex Padilla from California. .
The 10 Senate Republicans include Collins, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Todd Young of ‘Indiana, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. and Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
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