U.S. House clears way for passage of election bill spurred by Jan. 6, but fate

By Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday advanced legislation overhauling Congress’ certification process for presidential elections, as Democrats hope to prevent the kind of chaos that ensued on Jan. 6, 2021, when rioters tried to subvert Joe Biden’s victory.

On a vote of 219-209, with most Republicans in opposition, the House approved the rules for debating the measure, clearing the way for a vote on passage.

The current process, which is laid out in the 1887 Electoral Count Act, came under scrutiny after hundreds of supporters of Republican then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in a deadly attempt to stop the certification of Democrat Biden as the new president.

The violence occurred after Trump falsely claimed – and continues to allege – that he only lost the election due to rampant fraud.

In addition, 139 House Republicans and eight Senate Republicans voted to challenge the results in some key states.

“What we’re trying to do is take, shall we say, an antique kind of instrument, the Electoral College, and bring it up to date so it works for us in America in the 21st century,” said Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin.

Lawmakers in both parties acknowledge the vague law needs to be updated, but the House version faced strong opposition from House Republicans who argued this bill goes too far.

“House Democrats are desperately trying to score cheap points on a bill that does nothing to improve the Electoral Count Act and does everything to take away constitutional and state sovereignty over elections,” said Representative Guy Reschenthaler.

The Senate is considering its own legislation to reform the Electoral Count Act, with a panel set to debate and possibly modify its version on Tuesday.

That measure has 10 Republican co-sponsors and 10 Democratic co-sponsors, which suggests it will have enough support to pass in that chamber.

Though the House and Senate versions of the bill have similarities, there are differences between them that would need to be resolved before it is sent to Biden for his signature.

For instance, the Senate bill would require one-fifth of the House and Senate to object to states’ electors, instead of one lawmaker in both chambers. The House bill, on the other hand, requires one-third of each chamber to issue an objection.

(Reporting by Makini Brice and Richard Cowan; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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