WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke out on Tuesday in favor of legislation aimed at preventing electoral subversion, giving a major boost to the bipartisan effort and putting him at odds with the former President Donald Trump.
“I strongly support the modest changes that our task force colleagues have crafted after months of detailed discussions. I will proudly support the legislation, provided nothing more than technical changes are made to its current form,” said McConnell, R- Ky., said on the Senate floor.
McConnell had long encouraged negotiations led by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, DW.Va., to tighten election laws.
The resulting bill, the Voter Count Reform and Presidential Transition Enhancement Act, was approved by the Rules Committee by a vote of 14 to 1, with Sen. Ted Cruz, R- Texas, the only opponent. The committee, which passed minor revisions to the underlying bill, sent it to the full Senate for a floor vote.
The bill would clarify the 1887 Voter Count Act to limit the vice president’s role in vote counting, raise the threshold for objection to certain voters to one-fifth from each house, strengthen election certification laws for the rightful winner and would seek to facilitate an orderly process. presidential transition amid disputed results.
Lawmakers drafted the bill in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, when pro-Trump rioters stormed the building where then-Vice President Mike Pence was presiding over the official Electoral College vote tally in an effort to unseat Joe. Biden’s victory. Trump has repeatedly insisted that Pence have the power to reverse the count, which experts overwhelmingly agree he has not done. The legislation would specify the ceremonial role of the vice president.
“The chaos that came to a head on January 6 of last year certainly underscored the need for an update” to the Voter Count Act, McConnell said in his speech. “The resulting product – this bill, as presented, is the only chance to get a result and to legislate.”
Prior to McConnell’s endorsement, the bill was co-sponsored by 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans in the Senate. His support gives him a better chance of breaking through the 60-vote barrier to break a filibuster.
“We need to update the old voter count law to ensure that electoral votes for president accurately reflect the will of the people in every state and to improve the electoral vote count process in Congress,” the president said. of the Rules of the Senate, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., was pleased to see the bill go through the Rules Committee on Tuesday and “looks forward to continuing to have bipartisan and bicameral discussions on the best way to ensure that voter count law reform legislation is enacted soon,” said spokesman Justin Goodman.
Goodman added that “as our country continues to face the threat of the anti-democratic Republican MAGA movement — propelled by many GOP leaders who either refused to take a stand or actively fanned the flames of division in our country — reforming the voter count law should be the bare minimum of action Congress takes.
The bill has some differences from the House version, which was passed last week by Democrats and just nine GOP votes.
Some of the Republicans who voted against the House legislation said they were favorably inclined to support the Senate package. Among them is Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., who told NBC News he was in the hands of Collins on the way forward.
“Susan Collins put a lot of work into it, and that’s the approach we’re taking. I understand Susan wasn’t a big fan of the way the bill was drafted,” Fitzpatrick said, problem co-chair. Solvers Caucus, referring to the House bill. “I think we have to get it right, and I think the Senate bill is what we can get.”
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., said in an interview that he was warm to the Senate bill.
“Building the Senate makes more sense, especially the private rights of action,” he said. “It’s fair to say I’m warm, but with one big caveat: I haven’t been involved in the process. So I want to interrogate the bill a bit, ask some tough questions.”
Kate Santaliz contributed.