Wednesday afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) signaled his support for a bill seeking to overhaul the Electoral Count Act of 1887, a century-old election administration law.
The Senate Rules Committee debated on the bill soon afterwards, where the Kentucky Republican gave a speech expressing his support for the legislation.
“After 150 years, the Electoral Count Act needs some modest updates,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
The ECA dictates how vote counts are certified in Congress after an election. It fell under the national spotlight after John Eastman, a conservative lawyer who used to work for former President Donald Trump, tried to hijack the law’s vague language to claim that then-Vice President Mike Pence could call the 2020 election for Trump.
This year, both the House and Senate introduced bills to rewrite the bill to plug holes in its vague language. The House passed its version of the bill last week, and it’s a bit more sweeping than the Senate’s Electoral Count Reform Act (ECRA). But as it stands, the Senate bill may be more likely to make its way to President Biden’s desk.
The ECRA was first proposed by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) back in July after months of behind-the-scenes talks to get the 10 Republicans on board needed to overcome the Senate filibuster. Like the House bill, it clarifies that the vice president’s role in the vote certification process is purely ministerial and raises the threshold required for lawmakers to object to a vote count.
McConnell did include some caveats: Considering the bill as is enabled peaceful transitions of power for generations, “we need to be delicate and careful with any changes,” he said. “But the chaos that came to a head on January 6th of last year strongly suggests that we find careful ways to clarify and streamline the process.”
He also referenced past transitions for Republican presidents-elect as more evidence that the ECA needed reform in a nod to his conservative base.
“For more than twenty years now every time voters have picked a Republican president, we’ve seen some Democrats and Congress resist the people’s decision and try to challenge the electoral count. So the situation obviously called for careful, methodical and bipartisan work to arrive at a careful, methodical and bipartisan product.”
“I look forward to supporting the legislation as introduced in committee,” he finished.