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House Republicans reject bill to prevent future coup attempts

In theory, the bipartisan Presidential Election Reform Act should've passed with an overwhelming majority. In practice, Republicans had other ideas.


During the debate yesterday on the House floor over the Presidential Election Reform Act, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney told her colleagues, “If your aim is to prevent future efforts to steal elections, I would respectfully suggest that conservatives should support this bill.”

The good news for democracy advocates is that a majority of the House members agreed. The bad news is that the vast majority of Republicans did not. NBC News reported:

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.

It’s been a while since we last explored the issue, so let’s revisit our earlier coverage and review how we arrived at this point.

When John Eastman, the highly controversial Republican lawyer on Donald Trump’s team in the aftermath of the former president’s defeat, wrote an infamous memo intended to help overturn the 2020 results, his strategy focused on a specific task: exploiting ambiguities in the Electoral Count Act of 1887.

The law was passed in the aftermath of a brutally messy election controversy, and it was designed to establish a congressional process for certifying electoral votes. For generations, it was largely treated as a legal afterthought, if it was thought of at all.

All of that changed in dramatic fashion during the Trump era — or more specifically, as the Trump era came to a difficult end — when it became obvious that the antiquated law was in need of an overhaul.

To that end, as NBC News report explained, the bipartisan Presidential Election Reform Act would amend the 135-year-old 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.”

In theory, given the crisis from the recent past, this bipartisan bill is exactly the sort of measure that should pass easily. In practice, House Republican leaders peddled a series of claims in bad faith, demanded that GOP members reject the bill, and largely succeeded in creating a partisan outcome.

Only nine House Republicans voted in the majority:

  1. Liz Cheney of Wyoming
  2. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio
  3. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington
  4. Chris Jacobs of New York
  5. John Katko of New York
  6. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois
  7. Peter Meijer of Michigan
  8. Tom Rice of South Carolina
  9. Fred Upton of Michigan

What do these nine lawmakers have in common? Not one of them will be on Capitol Hill next year: They were either defeated in GOP primaries in recent months or they’re retiring voluntarily.

In other words, of the Republicans who intended to be in office in 2023 and 2024, they all opposed a bipartisan effort to prevent future coup attempts.

The fight now shifts to the Senate, where a similar-but-not-identical package appears to have the votes to advance, but where party leaders will likely wait to hold a vote until after the midterm elections. Watch this space.