WASHINGTON — The House voted 229-203 on Wednesday to pass a bill aimed at preventing future election subversion, inspired by the investigation into Jan. 6 and a determination to prevent such an attack from occurring again.
The Presidential Election Reform Act was written and introduced earlier this week by Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., two members of the Jan. 6 select committee.
The bill would amend the 1887 Electoral Count Act to remove any doubt that the vice president's role in counting Electoral College votes is simply ministerial. It would lift the threshold for members of Congress to force a vote on discounting presidential electors from just one member of the House and the Senate each to one-third of both chambers. And it would require governors to send electors to Congress for the candidate who won, based on state law set before Election Day, which cannot be retroactively changed.
Democrats unanimously supported the bill and were joined by just nine Republicans; 203 Republicans voted “no.”
The nine GOP “yes” votes came from Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, Chris Jacobs of New York, John Katko of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Peter Meijer of Michigan, Tom Rice of South Carolina and Fred Upton of Michigan. All nine are retiring from Congress or lost their primaries.
Cheney, who has lost favor in her party for her sharp criticism of former President Donald Trump and participation in the Jan. 6 committee, had urged fellow Republicans to support the measure.
"If your aim is to prevent future efforts to steal elections, I would respectfully suggest that conservatives should support this bill," Cheney said on the floor. "If instead, your aim is to leave open the door for elections to be stolen in the future, you might decide not to support this or any other bill to address the Electoral Count Act."
House Republican leaders pressured their members to vote against the bill. In an email to Republican offices, they called it "the Democrats’ latest attempt at a federal takeover of elections."
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who chairs the Jan. 6 committee, called GOP opposition to the bill “sad.”
“I’m not surprised at anything they do. It’s unfortunate. Because we are a better country than what we saw on Jan. 6,” he said.
The legislation now goes to the Senate, where a bipartisan group led by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, has spent months working on a similar bill that will be reviewed by the Senate Rules Committee next Tuesday. It currently has 20 co-sponsors — 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, enough to reach the 60-vote threshold to pass if Democrats unify behind it.
The Senate bill includes some differences. For instance, the threshold to vote on an objection is one-fifth, rather than one-third in the House-passed bill. The House bill also allows candidates to sue in federal court to enforce the lawful certification, which numerous Senate Republicans say is a nonstarter.
“I think once people get an opportunity to see what our bill encompasses versus the Senate bill, I think you’d see people moving to our side,” Thompson told reporters.
Collins said she has “issues” with the House legislation, including on the objection threshold. “There’s some misunderstandings by the House of what certain provisions, such as the definition of a failed election, would actually do,” she said.
But she remained optimistic that they can resolve the issues. “I don’t think we’re as far apart as the House is portraying it,” she added.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chair of the Senate Rules Committee, told NBC News she's "very proud" of the Senate legislation. She said she has been texting and speaking with Lofgren about the way forward and “we all have a common goal of passing a bill by the end of the year.”
"As you know, it's harder to pass things in the Senate. We basically have a 60-vote threshold in place. I would change that, but that's what we have," Klobuchar said in an interview. "And the fact that we came together like this is very important."
Klobuchar said she and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the ranking member of the committee, are working on getting "consensus on some additional changes to the bill … some of which are in the House bill."
Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., said Wednesday he would support the election bill if it stays narrow and "addresses the issues that I know they were specifically looking at fixing."
He said it must not include additional items like federal voting rights measures. "My understanding is they really tried to narrow it to just those things that apply specifically to the Electoral Count Act and those particular areas of it that have been problematic," Thune said.
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