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Schumer says he expects omnibus to include electoral count overhaul

Time is running out to update the 1887 law, negotiators warn

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer is keeping hope alive for the electoral count overhaul bill.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer is keeping hope alive for the electoral count overhaul bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Legislation to close loopholes in the formal electoral vote counting process will likely be appended to a must-pass appropriations package, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Tuesday. Supporters of President Donald Trump sought to exploit those loopholes last year to keep him in power.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Schumer gave the clearest indication yet that the bill known as the Electoral Count Reform Act will be tacked on to the annual spending bill that lawmakers are rushing to finalize ahead of the holiday break.

“I expect an omnibus will contain priorities both sides want to see passed into law, including more funding for Ukraine and the Electoral Count Act, which my colleagues in the Rules Committee have done great work on,” the New York Democrat said. 

A few weeks ago, bill-backing Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., said they hoped it would end up in the omnibus spending bill. Expectations that it could hitch a ride on another vehicle that Congress needs to move annually, the National Defense Authorization Act, died last week when the House passed their version without the ECRA.

Schumer indicated on Monday that the Senate would pass a one-week continuing resolution this week to extend government spending while appropriations negotiators finish their perennially late work

Dozens of civil rights and government watchdog groups have signed letters urging Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass the law this year.

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 of Trump’s backers 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. 

Supportive lawmakers say the bill must pass this year, given the GOP’s takeover of the House. 

The House passed a different version of the bill in September with every Democrat voting in favor, but just nine Republicans. 

The bill, which the Senate Rules Committee reported out in October by a 14-1 vote, has broad support in the Senate.

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