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House passes bill to reform Electoral Count Act

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The House on Wednesday passed a bill to reform the Electoral Count Act, an effort by Republican Rep. Liz Cheney and others to prevent another Jan. 6, 2021, when pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol in an effort to disrupt the counting of electoral votes from the 2020 presidential election. The final vote was 229 to 203, with nine Republicans joining Democrats to support the bill.

Those nine Republicans were Cheney and Reps. Tom Rice, Adam Kinzinger, Peter Meijer, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Fred Upton, John Katko, Anthony Gonzales and Chris Jacobs. 

The Presidential Election Reform Act, sponsored by Cheney and fellow House Jan. 6 committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren, ensures that Congress receives an electoral certificate from each state that accurately reflects the will of the voters, requires Congress to count electoral votes as the Constitution stipulates, and reaffirms that the vice president's role in approving electoral votes is merely ministerial, after Trump publicly urged then-Vice President Mike Pence to to "reject fraudulently chosen electors." Pence refused, saying he had no authority to do so. 

The bill also increases the threshold for any objection made in the House or Senate to a state's electoral votes, from one member of each chamber to one-third member of each chamber. 

"Let me be clear — this is a kitchen table issue for families, and we must ensure that this anti-democratic plot cannot succeed," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor ahead of the vote. "It's a kitchen table issue because denying the American people their fundamental freedom to choose their own leaders denies them their voice in the policies we pursue and those policies can make an immense difference in their everyday lives."  

House GOP leaders encouraged Republican members to vote against the bill. None of the nine Republicans who voted for it will be on the ballot in November, with four having lost primaries to Trump-backed challengers and five opting not to run for relection. Eight of them voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for his actions ahead of the Jan. 6 attack. 

The measure will still need to pass the Senate before it can be signed by President Biden. 

"What Donald Trump tried to convince the vice president to do was illegal under existing law and we begin by affirming that but we need to then take steps to make sure that another Jan. 6 is something that never happens again," Cheney said on a call Tuesday. 

In the Senate, Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced Wednesday that a similar bill, the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, now has 10 GOP cosponsors and 10 Democratic cosponsors. The fact that there are 10 Republicans signing on as cosponsors indicates there is enough support to pass the bill in the Senate.

"We are pleased that bipartisan support continues to grow for these sensible and much-needed reforms to the Electoral Count Act of 1887," Manchin and Collins said in a statement Wednesday. "Our bill is backed by election law experts and organizations across the ideological spectrum. We will keep working to increase bipartisan support for our legislation that would correct the flaws in this archaic and ambiguous law."

The Office of Management and Budget issued a statement of formal support for the Presidential Election Reform Act Wednesday. 

"The administration shares the Congress' interest in safeguarding the electoral process to preserve the will of the people, as expressed through democratic procedures established by law," OMB said. "... Americans deserve greater clarity in the process by which their votes will result in the election of a president and vice president." 

— Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report 

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