Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) rejected Republican calls Thursday to reform a 19th century election law in order to prevent a reprise of last year’s Capitol riot, saying the proposal was “unacceptably insufficient.”
Schumer has led the push in the Senate for sweeping election reform, which would override newly enacted laws in some states that strictly regulate early and mail-in voting as well as tighten voter ID requirements.
However, the Democrat-backed bill is opposed by every Senate Republican, giving it no chance of passing the 50-50 Senate.
As an alternative, top Senate Republicans led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have floated revising the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which dictates the process lawmakers utilize in counting electoral votes.
“Some say the answer lies in doing the bare minimum, like reforming the Electoral Count Act that my friend, the Republican leader, has floated in recent days,” Schumer said. “Let me take this opportunity to make clear that that plan, the McConnell plan — that’s what it is — is unacceptable, unacceptably insufficient and even offensive.”
Proponents argue that rewriting the bill could remove any question surrounding Congress’ role in certifying the election, possibly by making it harder for lawmakers to challenge state-certified slates of electors or specifying that the vice president holds a strictly ceremonial role.
Ambiguities in the current law were seized on by former President Donald Trump and his allies to insist that then-Vice President Mike Pence could reject the slate of electors put forward by states where Trump believed voter fraud had occurred in 2020. On the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, hours before rioters breached the Capitol, Pence declared that he had no such authority.
“Sen. McConnell’s plan to reform the Electoral Count Act would do nothing more than codify the vice president’s ceremonial role in counting the electoral college votes effectively guaranteeing that partisan state legislatures could overturn the elections without fear of recourse. Look at what it does, it’s a cynical idea,” Schumer said. “It’s an idea to divert attention from the real issue because they don’t want to confront the real issue. This cannot be.”
Republicans have vehemently denied accusations that stricter voting laws are intended to disenfranchise voters and called them necessary to protect against voter fraud. They have also decried the Democratic election reform bill as an unconstitutional power grab.
“No party that would break the Senate can be trusted to seize unprecedented control over all 50 states’ election laws,” McConnell tweeted Wednesday. “The fact that many Democrats are this desperate for a one-party takeover of our democracy proves exactly why they cannot be allowed to do it.”