Vice President's Role Is Clear in Measure on Election Count

Congress nears approval of plan making objecting to results tougher
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2022 4:45 PM CST
Vice President's Role Is Clear in Measure on Election Count
Sen. Roy Blunt, joined at right by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, talks to reporters about efforts to make the Electoral College tamper-proof on Nov. 29.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Congressional leaders have agreed on legislation designed to hinder any president and his supporters trying to overturn election results. The measure revises the Electoral Count Act of 1887, increasing the minimum for objecting to Electoral College results to one-fifth of the members in the House and Senate. It only took one congressional supporter of then-President Donald Trump to object on Jan. 6, 2021. It also specifies that the vice president's role in the certification process is ceremonial only; Trump had argued that Mike Pence had the authority to throw out the states' results. The new law "will arguably save our democracy," Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy told the Hill. "What we wrote is not foolproof. Malevolent actors could still steal an election, but it makes it a lot harder."

The measure also says that only a governor or a designated official is allowed to submit a state's election results. The Senate didn't vote on the proposal but included the Electoral Count Reform Act in its $1.7 trillion government funding package. The effort has been led by Sens. Susan Collins and Joe Manchin. The House approved a similar bill, co-written by Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, in September. The main difference between the two plans is the threshold for objections, which the House bill sets at one-third of the members of both Houses, per the Washington Post.

The Senate version cancels wording in an 1845 law allowing legislators to declare a "failed election" and override their state's popular vote. Sen. Roy Blunt said it's important to make the changes before the next presidential election. "It really was never a problem anywhere from 1887 until 2001," said Blunt, the top Republican on the Rules Committee. The spending bill is on track to be signed into law this week. Opinion pieces and editorials, including the Wall Street Journal's, welcomed the legislation but noted that folding it into the spending bill lets senators avoid being held accountable for their vote on the election changes. (More electoral college stories.)

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