A bipartisan Congressional effort to prevent anyone from trying to replay former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of a presidential election during the ceremonial counting of Electoral College votes is looking very likely to get across the finish line before the current Congress ends Jan. 3.

Maine’s senators, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King, have been at the forefront of the effort to correct the shortcomings in the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which Trump exploited on Jan. 6, 2021, in an effort to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election. A bipartisan agreement was negotiated in July by Collins and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. But it hasn’t been passed by the Democrat-controlled Senate despite being co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., 20 other Democrats and 16 other Republicans.

Schumer said Tuesday that he intended to attach the provisions of the bill to a massive omnibus federal spending bill to fund the government through next year that lawmakers are rushing to pass before the holidays.

“I expect an omnibus (bill) will contain priorities both sides want to see passed into law, including more funding for Ukraine and the Electoral Count Act,” he said. “It will be great to get that done.”

If the Senate fails to act before its lame duck session ends, the reform effort is likely doomed, leaving the door open to another attempt to overturn a presidential election. A very similar matching bill passed the Democrat-controlled House in late September, but Republicans will take control of that chamber at noon on Jan. 3 and are unlikely to take up a similar measure. Only nine House Republicans voted for the existing bill and none of them will be returning in the new Congress.

Collins said in a written statement that she was also optimistic the reforms would be attached to the omnibus. “There’s an increasing realization that we really need to fix the flaws in this ambiguous 1887 law before the next presidential election cycle starts in earnest next year,” she said.


King told CNN on Monday the initiative was one of the highest priorities facing the Senate.

“This issue is a ticking time bomb underneath our democracy, because the original electoral count act is such a mess and so subject to abuse,” King told CNN Monday. “I think it’s going to be part of the budget. I think they’re going to find a way to do it. Mitch McConnell wants it done. Chuck Schumer wants it done. Nancy Pelosi wants it done. I think we’re going to get there.”

The Senate bill would close the door on anyone repeating the former president’s attempt to pressure a vice president to arbitrarily block ceremonial certification of the final Electoral College ballots. It would explicitly state that vice presidents don’t have the power to judge or overturn the Electoral College results. It also would raise the bar for lodging objections to Electoral College results from one member of Congress to at least one-fifth of the members, and would eliminate a loophole that state legislatures could use to throw out election results simply by declaring the election to be “failed.” These changes received broad support from an ideologically mixed panel of election experts at an Aug. 3 hearing before the Senate rules committee.

Trump exploited the ambiguous language in the existing Electoral Count Act to encourage a violent insurrection that disrupted the ceremonial counting and certification of the Electoral College ballots at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. A mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol, many seeking to punish Vice President Mike Pence for failing to heed Trump’s demand that he refuse to endorse the election, even though the vice president does not have this power.


A wrinkle was added to the reform effort on Sept. 22, when leaders of the Democrat-controlled House passed over a bill with language matching the Senate legislation in favor of a slightly tougher bill co-sponsored by Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. The move, which came as a surprise to many senators, means the two bills would need to be reconciled without losing more than six of the current Senate Republican supporters.

The House version, which passed 229-203 with nine Republicans in favor, sets the bar even higher for lodging objections to the results, at one-third of members instead of one-fifth. Both of Maine’s House members, Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and Jared Golden, D-2nd District, voted in favor.

Collins is the sponsor of the Senate bill and King, who caucuses with Democrats, helped draft a set of Electoral Count Act reform recommendations used by the bipartisan group. Both senators were tied up in intelligence committee proceedings Wednesday and unavailable for interviews.

While the Electoral Count Act reforms have garnered some bipartisan support, many Republicans have balked at proposals to protect other aspects of elections, including measures to make it easier for people to register and vote nationwide that have long been standard practice in Maine – same-day voter registration, early in-person voting, and mail-in absentee ballots – as well as requiring electronic voting machines to have paper trails as a remedy to suspected hacking.

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