While the senators said the work of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol did not influence their work or impact the timing, the legislation was released as the committee has laid out evidence showing how Trump and his allies tried to exploit the vagueness of the 19th century law, the Electoral Count Act.
Trump pressured Vice President Pence to reject votes for Joe Biden from certain states, recognizing informal slates of electors for Trump instead, but Pence disagreed with the idea he had the legal authority to do so and worked to certify Biden as the winner of the election.
The proposal, led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin III (DW.V.) also makes it more difficult for Congress to raise an objection to state results in a presidential election. The 19th century law allows one House member and one senator to raise an objection. The proposal raises the objection threshold to one-fifth of the House and the Senate.
It also clarifies how a presidential candidate can raise concerns about a state’s election by creating a three-judge panel with an expedited path to the Supreme Court, an issue that the senators struggled to come to agreement on.
In a separate piece of legislation, the senators attempt to clarify the presidential transition and deter violence against poll workers by doubling the fines for people who intimidate or threaten election workers. It also attempts to clarify how the Postal Service handles election mail.
To the grief of many on the left, the senators did not delve into issues such as voter access, an issue that has become partisan.
“We have developed legislation that establishes clear guidelines for our system of certifying and counting electoral votes for President and Vice President,” the bipartisan group of senators said in a statement. “We urge our colleagues in both parties to support these simple, commonsense reforms.”
The proposal would specify that a state can appoint just one set of presidential electors and only the governor—or an official designated in the state’s constitution or laws—could submit the electors to Congress.
After the 2020 election, groups of rogue electors backing Trump in a number of states attempted to submit their slate to Congress to be counted instead of the legitimate electors won by Biden.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have given the bipartisan negotiators a long leash — a sign the legislation is likely to garner the support of leaders in both parties. Collins said she has been in contact with Schumer and McConnell on the bill.
In addition to Collins and Manchin, members of the negotiating group include Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mark R. Warner (D-Va .), Thom Tillis (RN.C.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Shelley Moore Capito (RW.Va.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Todd C. Young (R-Ind.) , Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.).