WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives just ended their legislative year. Besides passing $1.7 trillion omnibus package to fund the government, lawmakers also tucked a measure in the package that sternly rebukes former President Donald Trump’s actions leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, along with his 187 minutes of inaction as his supporters carried out an attempted coup on his behalf.
In 2021, the constitutional crisis was averted when former Vice President Mike Pence stood firm in the face of an intense, if petty, pressure campaign led by Trump himself and an armed mob chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” as evidenced in the newly released Jan. 6 committee report. Never again, or so Congress hopes.
The measure they just sent to President Joe Biden is aimed at ensuring no future president can try to force their vice president to change the slates of electors that states send to Washington for certification every four years.
“I think it's incredibly important,” Jan. 6 committee member Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) told Raw Story at the Capitol. “I think the Jan. 6 committee revealed there some weaknesses in our system that a dishonorable man chose to exploit, and the Electoral Count Reform Act goes about fixing some of those things.”
The reform act is the first recommendation made by the Jan. 6 panel. Its aimed solely at Trump and his allies who relied on the ambiguity of the constitutional text to try and seize control of the government using force.
“The constitutional role of the Vice President, as the presiding officer of the joint meeting of Congress, is solely ministerial and that he or she does not have any power to solely determine, accept, reject, or otherwise adjudicate disputes over electors,” according to a readout of the measure from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) who helped negotiate the compromise.
The bipartisan reform act also raises the threshold for objecting to the certification of any slate of electors. And it includes a provision requiring each state’s certification to come from their governor alone, which is intended to do away with the confusion Trump’s allies sowed by introducing slates of fake electors.
“It’s very important,” Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) told Raw Story at the Capitol. “It’s not going to fix everything, but this very old law—that nobody paid any attention to outside of this chamber on that important day—now will be updated so not so flimsy a challenge—fraudulent a challenge—can become law. But just a start. More to do.”
Besides security enhancements and taking steps to streamline communication between federal law enforcement officials who were caught unprepared on Jan. 6, many Democrats say the failed insurrection is the case in point for doing away with the Electoral College altogether.
The Electoral Count Reform Act of 2022 also gives aggrieved presidential candidates a fast lane to have their challenges heard in the courts through creating a new expedited judicial review process, which will be overseen by a three-judge panel that’s granted a direct appeal to the Supreme Court, if needed.
While on her way to vote on the House floor where lawmakers huddled, fearing for their lives on Jan. 6, 2021, Rep. Murphy added, “It's a good start in ensuring that we secure our democracy.”