Congress can prevent another January 6 by updating key electoral law
The American public does not tend to think highly of Congress. The historic Gallup poll shows that public approval by our national legislature has hovered around 20 percent over the past decade. Very rarely, more than half of John and Jane Q. Public have given the green light to the first branch of government.
However, why would anyone imagine that the public would want Congress to have a role to play in deciding who will be president? When asked, American public opinion decidedly does not want Capitol supporters trying to play with state electoral rolls. “With a 2: 1 margin, voters also think it should be difficult for Congress to ‘reject’ the certified results of a state’s presidential election,” a recent poll notes.
Yet that’s exactly what some politicians sought to do on January 6, 2021.
Then-President Donald J. Trump urged lawmakers to oppose voter lists submitted by Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania. He also asked the vice president Mike penceMichael (Mike) Richard Pence Conservative group targets tester, Sinema, Kelly The Hill 12:30 p.m. report – Presented by Mastercard – Dems put their finger on the agenda Biden Meadows said the National Guard would be in attendance on Jan.6 for “Protect pro Trump” investigators say MORE not to count those lists and send them back to state lawmakers, where GOP majorities could reject Biden’s victory and declare Trump the winner.
It was the president’s last desperate play. For months, he had filed lawsuits in states to overturn the results. He also coaxed state lawmakers to reject public votes and declare Trump the winner of their states’ electoral votes. His team’s dismal claims about German servers, Italian satellites, Venezuelan software and the like have mostly been mocked in court. No state legislature has gone far to reject the votes of its constituents.
This is why the Trump team has turned to Congress, which has a duty to collect and monitor the counting of state voters lists. With the guidance of the now disgraced former professor John Eastman, a play was put together to turn this ceremonial exercise into a political power game. “Stop the theft” has become “steal the account”.
The effort failed despite the support of the Senses. Ted cruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz Kate McKinnon takes over role of Fauci on “Saturday Night Live” with advice on holiday pandemic Senate passes bill to avoid filibuster as debt ceiling hikes Caddy deportee challenges Coast Guard Academy over parental ban policy MORE (R-Texas) and Josh hawleyJoshua (Josh) David Hawley Senate panel pushes forward bill making electronic federal justice registration system free 14 GOP Senators Help Advance McConnell Debt Limit Agreement Binding Provision women to register for a project withdrawn from the defense bill PLUS (R-Mo.), Whose blatant decision to challenge state slates threw the slate count into pandemonium and fueled the illusion of the Capitol storming mob. On January 6, Pence stood up and pushed back on Trump’s pleas, and enough GOP senators joined Democrats to uphold the democratic standard that Congress must respect states’ election results.
For those worried about the collapse of democracy in America, there was good news last spring. The House administration committee has pushed back efforts to get Congress to overturn the results of congressional elections in Iowa and Illinois.
But more should be done to ensure Congress does not mock state election determinations.
One way to do this would be to update the Electoral Count Act (ECA), the 1887 law that provides vague guidance on how to conclude a presidential election. At least two updates are warranted.
First, the law should make it clear that the vice president must accept and count electoral votes legally submitted by states. It goes without saying that the founders would be appalled if someone in an office once described as “not worth a hot piss bucket” had the power to serve as a presidential kingmaker.
Second, Congress should rewrite the ECA to make it more difficult for lawmakers to derail state vote counts. This problem has worsened since January 2005, when Sen. Barbara boxerBarbara Levy BoxerFirst Senator Officially Approves Bass’s Candidate For LA Mayoral Candidate Bass Receives List Approval From EMILY Bass Gets Mayor’s Approval From Former California Senator MORE (D-Calif.) And Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) delayed the count. They alleged – without any evidence – that the people of George W. Bush rigged the Ohio voting machines to steal a victory from John KerryJohn KerryDemocrats fear their grip on Hispanic voting will loosen Climate policies propel growing dysfunction in Western democracies Kerry calls on countries that need to ‘escalate’ climate change MORE. Since then, more and more members of Congress have followed suit and attracted the attention of C-SPAN by opposing them. This mischief can be reduced by requiring that at least a majority of lawmakers in both chambers oppose the vote being suspended and that both chambers be required to return to their separate chambers to debate and vote on the allegations.
Other changes to the law may also be warranted, and it looks like Democrats and Republicans in Congress would support an ECA update. Neither party wants the victory of its elected president to be robbed by supporters of the Capitol. And once one party does, the other party can be sure to return the favor with a shovel.
There are less than three years until the next presidential election. There have been few breakouts over the past few decades, and we’ve had nail buffs in 2016 and 2020. So Congress should heed the public’s wishes and hurry up and do whatever is necessary to make sure we don’t. never live another january 6th.
Kevin R. Kosar (@kevinrkosar) is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the co-editor of “Congress Overwhelmed: Congressional Capacity and Prospects for Reform” (University of Chicago Press, 2020).