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McConnell snubs Trump, backs bill to prevent future coup schemes

Donald Trump demanded that GOP senators reject any effort to reform the Electoral Count Act. Soon after, Mitch McConnell decided to ignore him.


After the House approved a bill last week to reform the Electoral Count Act of 1887, Donald Trump took his lobbying efforts to the next level. “REPUBLICAN SENATORS SHOULD VOTE NO!” the former president declared by way of his social media platform.

The Senate’s top GOP leader likely heard about Trump’s preference, but he apparently didn’t care. NBC News reported:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came out on Tuesday in favor of legislation aimed at preventing election subversion, giving the bipartisan effort a major boost and putting him at odds with former President Donald Trump. “I strongly support the modest changes that our colleagues in the working group have fleshed out after months of detailed discussions. I’ll proudly support the legislation, provided that nothing more than technical changes are made to its current form,” McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor.

There have been some important legislative fights in this Congress, and reforming the Electoral Count Act of 1887 hasn’t generated as much attention as higher-profile bills, but the closer this comes to passing, the better off we’ll all be.

To briefly recap for those just joining us, when Trump and his confederates launched a campaign against the 2020 results, they sought to overturn the election by exploiting alleged ambiguities in the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act — a law passed in the aftermath of a brutally messy election controversy, one that was designed to establish a congressional process for certifying electoral votes.

Leaders in both parties now agree that the law is due for an overhaul, including new clarity on the vice president’s ceremonial role in the certification process, as part of a broader effort to prevent future coup attempts.

But among the pressing questions is whether a reform package could become law. When only nine House Republicans — none of whom will be in Congress next year — voted for the bipartisan Presidential Election Reform Act last week, it was hardly reassuring: If support from Senate Republicans was proportionately similar, the initiative would die.

The good news for reformers — and the bad news for Trump — is that success in the Senate is now likely. McConnell’s endorsement is a major step forward for the legislation; proponents appear to have lined up a filibuster-proof majority; and when the Senate Rules Committee took up the bill yesterday, it cleared the panel on a vote of 14-1.

The former president’s insistence that GOP senators should reject the legislation, at least for now, is being ignored.

As for the one member of the Senate Rules Committee who voted no, that was none other than Sen. Ted Cruz. The Texas Republican said yesterday, “I understand why Democrats are supporting this bill. What I don’t understand is why Republicans are.”

Cruz, it’s worth noting for context, was one of only eight GOP senators who didn’t vote to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory.

As for the Texan’s confusion, it’s really not that complicated. Why are so many Senate Republicans on board with reforming the Electoral Count Act? Because they saw what happened on Jan. 6 when opponents of democracy tried to exploit perceived holes in our laws, and they see value in a bipartisan effort to patch those holes and prevent future crises.

The better question is why Cruz would simply leave the holes in place.

Postscript: I’m holding off on delving into the legislative details for now, only because it’s still likely to be tweaked before it passes. That said, as we discussed in July, the main elements include clarifying the vice president’s role in certifying election results, making it more difficult for lawmakers to formally object to electors, and also making it more difficult for states to send fake electors.