One byproduct of the House January 6 committee’s detailed examination of Donald Trump’s attempted election coup was a bipartisan recognition that the creaky Electoral Count Act of 1887, which governs the finalization of presidential elections, needs to be reformed. It’s generally agreed that the moment of greatest peril for democracy occurred when Trump tried to pressure Vice-President Mike Pence into either reversing or delaying confirmation of Joe Biden’s victory under the weird theory (cooked up by Trump co-conspirator John Eastman) that under the ECA the vice-president has plenary powers to count or not count electoral votes regardless of state certifications of the popular vote winner. Pence refused, fortunately, but that and other hazy aspects of the ECA involving challenges to state certifications in Congress and the possibility of fake electors are far overdue for a rewrite.
The Senate and House have passed different versions of an ECA reform bill, though both would rule out what Trump wanted Pence to do while making it a lot harder for Congress to reverse elections as well. The Senate bill has bipartisan support (its original co-sponsors are Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Joe Manchin), which is why negotiations over a vast $1.7 trillion omnibus appropriations bill have included that version of the ECA reform language. That bill is currently racing toward enactment before federal funding runs out on December 23. There’s a chance the omnibus won’t be approved (for one thing, House Republicans won’t vote for it because their leverage over spending decisions goes up once they take over the chamber in January), and if that happens, ECA reform will lapse again until the next Congress. That would be bad.
One potential obstacle to GOP support for ECA reform has been Donald Trump’s assumed hostility. He attacked reform efforts last January, thoughEastman’s actual position during the crisis over Pence’s options was that the Electoral Reform Act is unconstitutional. (The vice-president’s alleged power to change the election is grounded in the constitutional provisions requiring the veep to count electoral votes, not in any mere statute.)
Now it seems Trump is meh on the whole subject, as indicated by this new Truth Social post:
I don’t care whether they change The Electoral Count Act or not, probably better to leave it the way it is so that it can be adjusted in case of Fraud, but what I don’t like are the lies and “disinformation” put out by the Democrats and RINOS. They said the Vice President has “absolutely no choice,” it was carved in “steel,” but if he has no choice, why are they changing the law saying he has no choice?
It’s a pretty dumb argument. “They” are “changing the law” because people like Trump and Eastman tried to twist it into a recipe for vice-presidential insurrection. It’s a clarification, not a substantive change, and it hardly proves Trump was right in the first place.
But the good news is that Trump says he really doesn’t much care whether it passes or not. So in case any sensitive MAGA souls get into a position to kill or confirm these reforms, they don’t need to worry about thunderbolts from Mar-a-Lago.
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