Democrats are voicing skepticism over Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer: McConnell floating Electoral Count Act reforms ‘unacceptably insufficient,’ ‘offensive’Jan. 6 and the GOP’s masterclass in the emptiness of wordsThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Altria – Marking the Jan. 6 ‘chaos and carnage’MOREs (Ky.) openness to discussing election law changes, warning that hes trying to distract from filibuster reform efforts.
McConnells decision to open the door this week to reforming an 1887 Electoral College law comes as Democrats are trying to cut a deal with Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBiden hopes for big jobs number on FridayTop House Democrat urges Senate to abolish filibuster to pass voting rights on Jan. 6 anniversaryBriahna Joy Gray: Biden going to ‘pay the piper’ for inaction during midterms MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaTop House Democrat urges Senate to abolish filibuster to pass voting rights on Jan. 6 anniversaryMajority of business leaders believe democracy is threatened: pollLawmakers discuss changes to Electoral Count Act after Jan. 6MORE (D-Ariz.) on broader voting rights reforms that will require them to change the legislative filibuster.
Though top Republicans say theres genuine interest within the conference for looking at the law which outlines how Congress formally counts the Electoral College results, like it did on Jan. 6 the timing immediately sent up red flags for top Democrats and activists.
Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden, Obama to speak at Reid’s funeral in NevadaGarland vows prosecutions ‘at any level’ over Jan. 6For the sake of the planet, Build Back Better must be salvagedMORE (D-N.Y.), during an interview with MSNBCs Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowAmid multiple crises, Biden runs to NBC’s safe space with Jimmy FallonPaul, Cruz fire back after Fauci says criticism of him is ‘dangerous’An unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff’s book based on Russia fictionMORE, said he viewed McConnells comments as an effort to head off discussions with Manchin and Sinema, who are the two Democratic hold outs on changing the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
I think this is a fake. I think it’s a way to try and get the two senators that we have who are not on board to go for something that won’t change the horrible, voracious change in the balance of power that will allow elections to slam things in the directions of Republicans in a dramatic way, in an unfair way, in an un- small-D democratic way, Schumer said.
Schumer took another shot at the idea of making reforms to the Electoral Count Act during a floor speech saying that the offer was unacceptably insufficient and even offensive.
Sen. Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockLawmakers discuss changes to Electoral Count Act after Jan. 6Watch Live: Schumer, Senate Democrats hold press conferenceEleven interesting races to watch in 2022MORE (D-Ga.), who has been deeply involved in the voting rights negotiations, called GOP talk of reforming the Electoral Count Act a distraction.
We need to pass voting rights and we need a comprehensive response to this huge and concerted effort across the country to make it difficult for people to vote. What good is the certification if I don’t get the cast my vote in the first place? Warnock said.
Though some Republican scholars have long floated making changes to the Electoral Count Act, McConnell generated headlines this week when he opened the door to revisiting the 1887 law saying that reforms were worth discussing.
Wholly aside from all the other things theyre discussing, this is something thats worth discussing, McConnell said.
Theres bipartisan, bicameral interest in making changes to the law, which was enacted after a disputed 1876 election. Dozens of Republicans tried unsuccessfully to challenge key battleground states on Jan. 6, 2021, and then-President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 brings Democrats, Cheneys together with GOP mostly absentProPublica reporter says movement to target government, political opponents had been rising prior to Jan. 6 attackBriahna Joy Gray: Biden going to ‘pay the piper’ for inaction during midterms MORE waged a public and private pressure campaign to try to get then-Vice President Pence to throw out the results. The GOP efforts fell short, and Pence rejected Trump’s overture, but the count was disrupted for hours after a pro-Trump mob breached the Capitol.
Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenLawmakers discuss changes to Electoral Count Act after Jan. 6GOP attempts balancing act: Condemn Jan. 6, but not TrumpLofgren: Many Jan. 6 panel witnesses are former Trump officialsMORE (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Administration Committee, is trying to put together bipartisan legislation and Sen. Angus KingAngus KingLawmakers discuss changes to Electoral Count Act after Jan. 6Schumer ramps up filibuster fight ahead of Jan. 6 anniversarySchumer vows Senate rules change vote by Jan. 17 if GOP blocks voting rightsMORE (I-Maine) is also drafting potential reforms. A bipartisan Senate group, including Manchin and Sinema, also held a call, convened by Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsLawmakers discuss changes to Electoral Count Act after Jan. 6Bipartisan Senate group holds call on elections amid reform chatterUS lawmakers weigh new COVID-19 stimulus funding for businessesMORE (R-Maine), to talk about elections and the Electoral Count Act.
But top Democrats and the White House are trying to put the kibosh, for now, on talk of reforming the 1887 law, arguing that the focus needs to stay on broader election and voting rights reforms that are currently being pursued by Democrats.
That is not a substitute for the protections that are included in the Freedom to Vote Act and the John LewisJohn LewisTop House Democrat urges Senate to abolish filibuster to pass voting rights on Jan. 6 anniversaryWithout the lies there would have been no Jan. 6 fiascoMajority of business leaders believe democracy is threatened: pollMORE Voting Rights Advancement act. That is why our focus is on those, said White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiVoting rights groups tell Biden not to visit Georgia without plan to pass elections billsBriefing in brief: Biden leaving consequences of Jan. 6 to DOJPsaki: Maybe Trump ‘learned something’ from Biden’s Jan. 6 speechMORE.
She added that the Electoral Count Act is not a replacement, it is not a substitute, and our focus remains on those two pieces of legislation.
Asked about talk of reforming the Electoral Count Act, Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinDemocratic agenda stuck in limboEmbattled Federal Bureau of Prisons director resigningBiden to restart talks with Manchin after ‘cooling off’ periodMORE (D-Ill.) noted that Schumer is obviously not a fan.
Democrats are currently pursuing election and voting legislation after Republicans blocked two sweeping election bills and a third bill named after the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) that would have strengthened and expanded the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Though both Sinema and Manchin have signed onto the Lewis legislation, the bills have gone nowhere in the Senate because of the 60-vote legislative filibuster. No Republicans voted for the election billsthe For the People Act and Freedom to Vote Act, respectivelyand Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBiden’s court picks face fierce GOP oppositionAlaska GOP governor accepts Trump endorsement, Murkowski ultimatumTrump warns Alaska GOP governor he’ll revoke endorsement if he backs MurkowskiMORE (R-Alaska) was the only Republican to vote to start debate on the voting rights legislation.
Schumer has vowed to force a vote on the Senate rules change by Jan. 17 if Republicans once again block the bills, as they are expected to. Democrats havent landed on a proposal but are discussing a range of options including implementing a talking filibuster, where opponents could delay a bill for as long as they could hold the floor but it could ultimately pass by a simple majority, or a carve out that would exempt voting rights legislation from the 60-vote hurdle while keeping it intact for other issues.
But to pass changes to the filibuster, Democrats would need total unity from their 50-member caucus, something they dont yet have. Both Sinema and Manchin have reiterated their support as recently this week for having a supermajority requirement for legislation and have been wary of the carve-out idea backed by many of their colleagues.
Theyve also both endorsed bipartisan negotiations on the Electoral Count Act reforms, helping fuel concerns from Democrats and activists that McConnells trial balloon is meant to sink the Democratic-only talks on filibuster reform and broader voting legislation.
Tiffany Muller, the president of End Citizens United and Let America Vote Action Fund, added that McConnell saying changes to the 1887 law were worth discussing was a classic McConnell stall tactic.
Ezra Levin, the co-executive director of the progressive group Indivisible, warned that McConnell was working to outmaneuver Democrats.
The Electoral Count Act is a fine reform, but it would do nothing to reverse or prevent gerrymandering or voter suppression, he said. If McConnell can convince Manchin and Sinema to go down this path, that would successfully sideline efforts to pass the big, consequential democracy bills that combat voter suppression.