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January 6: US House of Representatives passes election law overhaul

WASHINGTON –

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation to amend the rules that confirm the results of a presidential election as lawmakers speed up their response to the January 6, 2021 uprising and efforts to Donald Trump’s unsuccessful attempt to stay in power.

The bill, which is similar to bipartisan legislation that passed the U.S. Senate, would overhaul a complex law dating back to the 1800s known as the Governing Voters Act, along with the U.S. Constitution, the way voters State and Congress certify the electors and declare the winners of the presidential election.

While that process has long been customary and ceremonial, Trump and a team of aides and his lawyers have tried unsuccessfully to exploit loopholes in the law in an attempt to reverse the failure. before Joe Biden in the 2020 election. Democrats are pushing through the bill before the end of the year and before the 2024 election cycle when Trump is considering another run.

While at least 10 GOP senators have signed off on the Senate version, the House vote has largely fallen along party lines. Republicans in the House – most of whom still align with Trump – argue that legislation should not be a priority and that it is a political vehicle for Democrats ahead of the midterm elections in November.

The final vote was 229-203, with nine Republicans joining all Democrats voting for the bill. None of the nine Republicans will return to Congress next year.

The act would set new parameters around the January 6 joint session of Congress that takes place every four years after the presidential election. The day turned violent last year after hundreds of Trump supporters disrupted proceedings, breaking into the building and threatening the lives of then-Vice President Mike Pence and members of the National Assembly. festival. The rioters echoed Trump’s false claims about widespread fraud and wanted Pence to block Biden’s victory when he presided over the joint session.

The bill is intended to ensure that future January 6 sessions are “as the constitution envisions, a minister’s day,” said Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, a Republican co-sponsor of the law with House Administrative Committee Chairman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif, said. Both Cheney and Lofgren are also members of the House committee investigating the January 6 attack.

Ahead of the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the legislation was necessary because of efforts in states across the country to change election laws to make it easier to nullify future results.

“We now have a serious task to make sure that future attempts to sabotage our election cannot succeed,” Pelosi said.

The bill would make clear in law that the vice president’s role in presiding over the vote count is ceremonial and that he or she cannot change the outcome. It also stipulates that each state can only send one group of certified electors after Trump’s allies have tried unsuccessfully to bring together illegal groups of pro-Trump electors. states that Biden has won.

“This bill is going to be difficult to convince people that they have the power to overturn an election,” Lofgren said.

The bill would raise individual legislators’ objections to any state’s electoral votes, requiring a third of the House and a third of the Senate to oppose it in order to trigger the vote. votes in both houses. Currently, only one lawmaker in the House and one lawmaker in the Senate must oppose. The House bill would set very narrow grounds for such objections, an attempt to stave off unfounded or politically motivated challenges.

In addition, the bill would require the courts to participate if state or local officials want to delay a presidential vote or refuse to certify the results.

The House vote comes as the Senate is on a similar path with enough Republican support to virtually secure passage before the end of the year. After months of negotiations, House Democrats introduced their legislation on Monday and held a snap vote two days later to send the bill to the Capitol and begin to resolve differences. A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation this summer, and a Senate committee is expected to vote on it next week.

Although the House bill is more expansive than the Senate version, the two bills contain similarities and members in both houses are optimistic they can find the differences. . And despite the largely partisan vote in the House, supporters are encouraged by the bipartisan effort in the Senate.

Benjamin Ginsburg, a longtime GOP attorney who consulted with lawmakers as they wrote the bill, said: “Both sides have an incentive to have a clear set of rules, and this is a law. old-fashioned that no one understands.” “All parties benefit from clarity.”

Leaders of the House of Representatives encouraged their members to vote against the legislation. They say involvement of the courts could entail elections and say the bill would strip states of their rights.

The bill is an “attempt to federalize our elections,” Representative Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., said on the House floor. Voters are more focused on economics and other issues than electoral law, he said.

“In my area of ​​Pennsylvania, nobody talks about this,” says Reschenthaler.

Illinois Representative Rodney Davis, Lofgren’s GOP counterpart on the House Governing Committee, said Democrats are “trying desperately to talk about their favorite topic, and that is the former president. Donald Trump.”

Democrats said the bill was not only a response to Trump, but also a way to prevent outcry and defamation from all future candidates.

“If you think this legislation is an attack on President Trump, you simply haven’t read the law because there’s nothing in it that attacks President Trump,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Another member of January 6 said. dashboard. “This is about reforming the Voter Count Act so it works for the American people.”

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., is the fuzzy one. He criticized Republicans who defended Trump’s actions that day and who downplayed the former president’s efforts to overturn the outcome of the election.

Hoyer called the Republican opposition “a rationalization of what I believe to be treason. … It was rationalized then, and sadly now it is being rationalized.”

The nine Republicans who voted in favor of the bill will all retire or be defeated for re-election in this year’s Republican primary. Eight out of nine people voted to impeach Trump shortly after the uprising.

The nine Republicans are Cheney and Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Fred Upton of Michigan, Peter Meijer of Michigan, Tom Rice of South Carolina, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, John Katko of New York and New York’s John Katko. Chris Jacobs of New York.

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AP Congressional correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

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