tv Senate Rules Committee Debates Electoral Count Act CSPAN October 1, 2022 6:44pm-7:31pm EDT
rules committee met to consider legislation that clarifies how congress is to count state electoral votes after a presidential election and make clear the president's role -- vice president's role in the process. texas senator ted cruz was the only member to voice opposition. mitch mcconnell says he intends to vote for the legislation barring any significant changes.
[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2022] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> i call to order this meeting of the senate committee on rules and administration to consider s4573, the electoral count reform and first i want to thank my good friend, ranking member blunt for his leadership and his friendship and for joining me in introducing the bipartisan manager's amendment that we will
consider today. from the beginning of our work together when sen. blunt: was the chair to now, we have thrived for bipartisanship, and this is the ultimate example of that, as we have a lot of support for this bill. now, i want to make clear that this is also the work of senator collins and mansion, and the group of senators -- senator collins and senator manchin, and the group who worked painstakingly for months to come to an agreement on this bill and on this committee that includes senator warner, who is with us today, as well as a sense of history in his state, and we thank them for their work on the bipartisan group that drafted the bill before us. i also appreciate their support as well as senator manchin and
senator collins support for the manager's amendment. finally i want to recognize our good friend senator king for his early, early leadership on this issue. he was ahead of his time as always, and drafted legislation that he and i and senator durbin introduced in february and a number of the provisions in that draft bill have stood the test of time and are included in both the senate and house versions of this effort. we are here today after months of bipartisan effort, as i noted, to find common ground on reforms to the outdated and antiquated electoral count act. i appreciate the work of my colleagues and the appropriate help from experts including an -- a productively -- i know that many of the ideas raised at the hearing are now in the manager's amendment. enacted in 1887 after the
disputed election between rutherford hayes and samuel tilden, the electoral count act was largely overlooked for over 130 years, but it was at the center of a plan to overturn the 2020 election and the will of the american people that, as we all know who work here, culminated in a violent mob desecrating the capitol. on that day, enemies of our democracy. -- sought to use this by making false claims that this law about the vice president to which she is to accept electoral votes that were lawfully cast, by pointing their own electors, and by explain the fact that the law allows one senator and one representative to object to the state electoral votes and use baseless claims to delay the count. i will note that this could happen, either party could decide that one person objects
or another person objects, and we could literally have a delay, that could go on for a day, or days and days and days. i will never forget 3 -- 8:30 in the morning as we walk through the broken glass and the spray-painted columns to do our jobs. it was silent, stark contrast to the morning celebratory walked with members of the senate. when we finished our work that day, the peaceful transfer of power, which lies at the very foundation of our democracy, was at stake. it is essential we come together to take action to ensure that it never happens again. this bill explicitly rejects once and for all the false claims that the vice president has the authority to accept or reject electoral votes and makes clear that the vice president's role during the joint session is
ceremonial. second, it raises the threshold regarding baseless claims. right now just two people out of 535 members can object and slow down and come up the counting. third, it ensures that partisan state legislatures cannot appoint electors themselves and ignore the will of the voters. fourth, it makes reforms to ensure the candidates have an appeal process. finally, i will add that all the bill is introduced includes reforms that guard against future threats to our democracy, the manager's amendment which we will consider shortly includes key improvements to build on the pie partisan work that has been accepted by leaders and members of that group. today we have an opportunity to take strong bipartisan action to protect the cornerstone of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power. i look forward to advancing this critical legislation in this committee and continuing to work
with our colleagues in both chambers of congress to pass these reforms into law by the end of the year so that nothing like the chaos of january 6 ever happens again. on -- i now recognize my friend, senator blunt, for his opening statement. sen. blunt: thank you, it is good to work with you on the daily activities of the senate, but also work on this bill and for holding the markup today, i'm glad our colleagues are here. i think even more of our colleagues will attend, understanding this is one of the more important things we are likely to address this year, that has already had since january 6 a lengthy discussion that has lasted almost two years about the electoral count act of 1887, that has governed congress's electoral counting process for 135 years, but as we found out last year, it is -- it
is vague, outdated, needed reform. there has been brought support on both sides of the aisle to update the act, to clarify the language and address the ambiguities in the act. there has also been broad agreement that any changes to the process by which congress counts electoral votes should be bipartisan. for the better part of the past year, as you pointed out, bipartisan group of senators, led by senator collins and senator manchin have worked to craft the electoral count reform and presidential transition improvement act. they talked to many election experts and legal scholars and engaged in robust debate of how the electoral count act should be reformed. the result of their work is a bill that has already seen significant support from senators on both sides of the aisle. i want to applaud that group for their efforts, and as you mentioned, two of our meeting members were really involved in
that conversation. you and i were supportive of letting that bipartisan group do its work. they negotiated this bipartisan bill, that type of deliberation and debate and compromise is exactly how the senate is supposed to work. with any compromise, no one is likely to be completely happy with the final result, but this bill addresses and fixes the major flaws of the electoral count act. it clarifies the role of the vice president and congress during the electoral count itself. it raises the threshold required to levy an objection and ensures a single senator and single represented may not dispute accounting process or disrupt the counting process. it replaces the undefined and controversial failed election clause and ensures states cannot overturn the results of an election. it provides for an expedited
report process to ensure state issues, certifications after the election has been certified in their state, and in august the rules committee held what i thought was a very productive hearing to discuss the reform process and ask questions about the bill. since then, chairwoman klobuchar and i have worked with senator collins and senator manchin as well as the bipartisan group and crafted a manager's amendment to address some issues raised at the hearing, and they further strengthen the bill. we were able to do this in relatively short order, thanks to the working group's hard work and the dedication they have in drafting the bill to start with. we also had an opportunity to review the work passed by the house last week and think that the amendments that we are working on our sometimes reflective of some differences in the house bill and this bill. i'm hopeful that this market will move the bill forward in
the same constructive, bipartisan spirit that has been drafted, and i look forward to the conversation today and sending this bill to the full senate. sen. klobuchar: thank you, we've been joined by senator mcconnell. please give us some words. sen. mcconnell: thank you, i am pleased that we are where we are today. we're are here to consider legislation that is necessary -- unnecessarily detailed and complex, but the reason we are here is ready simple, after 150 years, the electoral count act needs some modest updates. those of us on the committee know it, and i believe all our colleagues in the senate know it, and the american people certainly know it. now clearly, when a 150-year-old law has successfully brought us certainty, finality, and loewen orally presidential inauguration after another, we need to be
delicate and careful with any changes. but the chaos that came to head on january 6 of last year wrongly suggests that we find careful ways to clarify and streamline the process. and so does what happened actually in january of 2001, january 2005, and january of 2017. more than 20 years now, every time voters pick a republican president, we've seen at least some democrats in congress resist the people's decision and try to challenge the electoral count. so the situation obviously called for careful, methodical, and bipartisan work to arrive at a careful, methodical, and bipartisan product. it's clear that only a bipartisan compromise originating in the senate can actually become law. one party going it alone will be
a nonstarter, and in my view, the house bill is a nonstarter. we have the one shot to get this right, and fortunately for all of us, fortunately for the country, and outstanding group of senators rolled up there sleeves. i'm especially want to thank senator collins for her leadership, senator blunt for his commitment to the process and miss o and others who were instrumental -- and their democratic counterparts worked hard to make this happen as well. i strongly support the collins legislation as introduced and assuming that we make no changes here today, for the most technical changes, i will be proud to vote for it and to help advances. -- help it dance it. it's common sense to modestly increase, as others have said
here, the threshold for objections to the electoral count so that congress too has options in case of a truly extraordinary circumstance. it's common sense to make the ordinary clear fact of the 12th amendment even clearer still. the vice president of east has no personal discretionary power over the presidential vote. it is common sense to protect states privacy in appointing their electors, but also strengthen requirements as states publicize their -- publicize the rules before the elections and stick to them. it is common sense to make technical changes to other related laws like the presidential transition, and is common sense that our colleagues leave chaos generating ideas on the cutting room floor.
or inventing new causes of action for litigation that would throw every election into the courts. the legislation before us with this text in this form, leaves congress one option, to get an outcome. in my view, this is not an opportunity we should mess up. so in closing, i want to again thank my colleagues for their weeks and weeks of hard work on this. let's preserve the legislation as introduced and report out this important bill. thank you, madam chairman. sen. klobuchar: thank you very much, senator mcconnell. i'm going to introduce the manager's amendment and then i know we have some other members who want to make comments, but i thought it would be good to get moving on that. with these opening statements being concluded, we will move on to today's agenda. the committee will now proceed to consideration of 4573, the electoral count reform and presidential transition improvement act. i call up the manager's
amendment in the nature of a substitute that senator blunt and i are co-leading, and i recognize myself to speak on the amendment. this manager's amendment is truly bipartisan. senator blunt and i jointly drafted and filed it and all the changes in it are supported by senator collins and senator manchin and the other members of the group, and i appreciate senator mcconnell's words about the importance of that group and the work that they did and the recognition of their work. i also want to thank all the experts from both parties gave feedback on the legislation, including elected officials, at our hearing last month all witnesses, root root -- republicans and democrats, agreed that we must update the electoral count act to ensure the will of the voters prevail in future presidential elections. they also all expressed support for improvements to make sure the bill works the way it was
intended. the manager's amendment will implement those changes. first, the managers amendment it protects against political gamesmanship by ensuring elections can only be extended in true emergencies and not for partisan reasons. we do that by adding language to clarify that only truly unforeseen emergencies qualify as extraordinary and catastrophic events that allow a to extend voting in a presidential election. second, it clarifies that a force can nasa court can compel the governor to certify electors and prevent a partisan official from overturning the will of the voters. third, and make sure the expedited judicial review process doesn't preempt elections that candidates and voters can bring under existing laws to defend their rights. fourth, it will prevent unnecessary supreme court decisions that will create uncertainty in elections by allowing the court to grant or deny review. there is general agreement on the committee that the court
should make its own decisions about whether or not it takes up cases. fifth, it requires governors to immediately transmit certificates of electors to the archivist of the united states, which will increase transparency by ensuring the certificates are publicly available sooner. the updates to the managers amendment are improvements that were supported by all involved, that will help protect our presidential elections and strengthen our democracy. and while there are additional changes that i know some would like to see to the bill, these are provisions of the original bill as well as the managers amendment that will achieve a strong bipartisan consensus, and we should be very proud of this bill. i think -- i thank senator blunt again for his work on the managers amendment and i urge your colleagues to join us in supporting it.
are there any comments about this? >> i would just say that we listened carefully to the witnesses we had at the hearing. we made changes that were consistent was a bipartisan group did, and there were a couple of places where we simply didn't try to go back and have all of the debates that they had taken to arrive at a couple of areas where they clearly felt that they could present the bill they presented, it solves the problems that we want to solve and i fully -- i'm fully in support of what you and i put together. sen. klobuchar: let's start with senator warner and will go to senator cruz and senator capito. sen. warner: i want to
acknowledge what y'all have indicated, that some of this seems pretty simple, but i can tell you in the bipartisan group, and it was a broad bipartisan group, it was 20 plus senators who met literally for weeks on end, and as senator mcconnell said, there is enormous complexity in this. we did spend a lot of time trying to get it right. i really appreciate you and ranking member blunt not inking that you had to reinvent the wheel the way some committees would. i think that approach, i'm grateful to both of you. i would echo what senator blunt said, i think the hearing you had was really helpful. there were a lot of witnesses that had technical changes that were extraordinarily important. so i think we have come to a very good product.
the only compromise is not getting all you want. i want to point out two things for my colleagues that i hope we can revisit at some point. one is, some will clearly fall within the jurisdiction of this committee. i've not pitched senator blunt or senator king on this, but i think we realize how important, we need to have some level of demand amid cyber security standards for our voting machines. -- we had -- we have to have some deep minimus standards. so they can withstand a storm, but not a cyberattack. in terms of making to any first century election system safe, i would hope we can come back at some later point and look at those cybersecurity standards for our voting machines. second, which would be a little outside this committee, but i
work closely with senator portman and senator sinema on trying to ensure that the postal service in the weeks and must before the election don't put a thumb on the scale, to make sure that mail-in voting is done in a way where voters know that the male is going to be treated as first class and treated in an appropriate way. that will -- i think both improvements can be made. we will have to revisit those on another day, but i think we're looking at a good product and i want to thank the chair and the ranking members and those on the rules committee for coming up with a very good amendment. sen. cruz: thank you, madam chair. this bill is a bad bill.
there are serious constitutional questions in the bill, article two says each state shall appoint in such matter that the legislature -- this bill is congress trying to intrude on the state legislatures. it is also exceptionally bad policy. unfortunately, i understand why democrats in this body would support it. there are three reasons democrats in this body supported. number one, this bill is all about donald j. trump, and in our lifetimes has driven democrats in this body more out of their minds than president trump. we know the democrats are not opposed to objecting to elections and presidential electors. we know that because democrats objected in 1969. they objected again in 2001, and they objected again in 2005 and they objected again in 2017. the democrats have a long history of going up and
objecting to electors, and by the way, and two of those times, 1969 and 2005, it wasn't just a democrat house member that objected, a democrat sinner -- senator joined and objected to that boat. we also know the hypocrisy that the democratic rage in trump has produced, where we have a kangaroo circus of a january 6 committee literally chaired by a house democrats who made one of those objections, insisting that it is now utterly unimaginable to object to a presidential election and to the outcomes thereof. we also know that the democrats are hell-bent on federal icing elections, and this bill takes a significant step down that road. of putting the federal government in charge of elections, that has been a top democrat priority for some time. but the biggest reason this bill is problematic is that it is
intended to decrease the ability of the united states congress to address the very real problem of voter fraud. voter fraud has been a persistent challenge in our elections from the dawn of time. democrats use to acknowledge that. there didn't used to be a controversial statement, until suddenly the 2020 election when democrats began clutching their pearls and insisting there is no voter fraud, it never has happened, and anyone who says it does happen is wearing a tinfoil hat and is a conspiracy theorist. that is wildly dishonest, and indeed, you can see in the democrats effort to pass the politicians act, the democratic party has made a decision that voter fraud, they would strike down every photo id law in the country despite the fact that overwhelming super majorities of
americans support voter id laws. laws prohibiting ballot harvesting, even though former democratic president jimmy carter told us ballot harvesting is one of the greatest avenues for voter fraud you can have. the corrupt politicians act would register millions of felons to vote and would register millions of illegal aliens to vote. and yet unfortunately, today's democrats have made i think a really cynical political decision that voter fraud, they believe, help select more democrats, and so the more fraud, the better. with this bill does is decrease the ability of congress to address instances of fraud when it occurs. i believe congress has a responsibility to do that. i would note that in the election of 1876 when there were serious allegations of voter fraud, congress did not throw its hands in the air and say there's nothing we can do about it. no, congress appointed what it
called an election commission that examined the facts and evidence of voter fraud and made a determination. that incident became the predicate for what is now the electoral count act. that was responding responsibly. what this bill is trying to do is take congress out of the business of trying to correct fraud. now as i said, i understand why democrats are supporting this bill. but i don't understand is why republicans are. in the house, the house version did a stint sibley get nine republican votes, all from republicans who are either not running for reelection or were beaten in the primaries. in other words, not a single republican who actually is going before the voters is willing to support it. i don't believe senators from this side of the aisle should be supporting a bill that enhances the federalization of elections and reduces the ability of
congress to respond to the very serious problem of voter fraud. i think this bill does that, so i intend to oppose it. sen. klobuchar: next up, senator king. thank you. sen. king: i would just point out that this bill is not a bill that comes out of the blue, but is in fact a modification of a 150 year old law that has already been on the books. is not a new effort of congress to intrude into the electoral process, it is merely intended to clarify a law which virtually everyone that has disgusted over the past when he five years has agreed is archaic and confusing. and it doesn't take congress out of the business -- he doesn't eliminate congress possibility to look at any aspect of elections. it just says it has to be a broader basis for objection, 20% of each house.
i have two amendments to propose, then i will withdraw. i want to outline what they are. one of them is, in current law, the basis of an objection is the vote of one or more electors has not been regularly given. that is the language from the ancient law. that is the term that is not very well defined, and is confusing, and the scholars recommend that we change that to "is unlawful or the product of unlawful coercion." it is merely the clarification of a term that really has no legal meaning. the second proposed amendment is even simpler, and that is that we are talking about where a court will have an opportunity to in effect the current law the current statute says such action shall be heard a district court of three judges convened, etc.
one of the things we're trying to do with the statute is to clarify and restore the trust of the american people. my suggestion is to add the phrase assigned on a random basis. it is impossible to predict as the republican leader pointed out, democrats in the past have gone through this process of objecting one or two objections here or there and as the senator from texas pointed out, a democratic senator joint so we have this process. assigned on a random basis rather than an opportunity for form shopping would again be a technical change, but it would address the public confidence in the result that there was not gamesmanship going on in trying to select which judges should hear the appeal. having made those two proposed
amendments, i hereby withdraw them reserving the right to bring them forward in the future consideration of this matter. i also want to complement the chair and ranking member for the amazing work you have done on this bill. as well as the bipartisan group who recognized a danger to our democracy from an archaic, confusing, and abstract law and to improve it, not to radically change it, but improve it so that it meets the needs of the 21st century and will apply to both parties, any parties, any candidate in the future. that is what this bill is all about. thank you. sen. klobuchar: thank you, senator king. i think that is a really important thing to note, we do not know who is going to win elections in the future, but both democrats and republicans felt it was important to take a law that had not been updated for a long time and make it work
for our democracy. i would also note before we turn to senator cap about, you and i discussed this disputed election . it was not my favorite president at the time, because i would not have been allowed to vote. it is just an example that election was such a mess and it's white congress enacted the electoral count act and we are looking at how to make this work regardless of what party wins an election so the will of the people will in fact dictate the outcome. with that, i turn it over to senator capito . >> thank you for scheduling this business meeting to consider a bill that i am proud as a republican to have worked on and to strengthen our process. i think the managers amendment strengthens it as well. i would note that in the process
that we went through with senator warner and the leadership of others, we took our time on this to the frustration of a lot of people. there was a restlessness to say are you going to do anything or not? you want to go far enough? are you going to go to narrow? at one point, we were at five point. now, we are down to 1.5 out of five is what this bill consists on. we crafted it with commonsense solutions to a problem. members of congress on both sides as senator cruz pointed out have sought to use the electoral college certification process to overturn the results of elections that they may not like. i have long championed decentralized electoral systems to give the state -- the states the tools they need to meet the needs of their state -- constituents.
i do not believe that members of congress should lawfully -- should overturn lawfully and i say lawfully cast votes. this is why i joined the working group and strongly supporting our bipartisan legislation. the act is a result of months of careful deliberation and debate. our group welcomed all kinds of impact -- input from experts, this committee, scholars, all type of political leanings and based upon that information, we came up with this bill. from the beginning, it was clear we were going to get bipartisan port, we had to draft a narrow bill. this legislation may not encompass all or it may be too much. it is carefully and narrowly crafted. i encourage my colleagues and counterparts in the house to look at this seriously. it is meaningful, tailored, it
clarifies the certification process. i will continue to push for the passage of this legislation. sen. klobuchar: thank you. senator padilla? sen. padilla: thank you. madam chair, last week i was pleased to join as a cosponsor of the electoral count reform act. i want to speak weakly as to why i am supporting it today. the electoral count act reform is crippled to ensuring -- it is to ensure the peaceful transfer of power that is central to our democracy ensuring that those processes are not disrupted as they were last january 6. as we take this next step in the
legislative process, i want to thank the members in crafting this bipartisan bill. i am mindful that is not just another vote. not another orca. -- mark up. it is about living up to our oath of office. we were each sworn in, we swore to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the united states. that includes working to ensure that an insurrection, and attack on our democracy never happens again. i'm committed to building the necessary support for this bill in the senate, i'm committed to reaching out to our colleagues in the house, i'm committed to doing the work to get this bill to the president's desk for signature. also note that as important as it is to fix the outdated electoral count act, as you
mentioned as california's former secretary of state, i know this is not the only part of our election system needs updating. across the country, too many americans still experience unnecessary obstacles to exercising their right to vote. election workers who were on the front lines of administering our democracy are increasingly facing threats and harassment for doing their job. we must better. as urgent and important as it is surpassed the electoral count reform act now, i urge all of us to build on the bipartisan effort at the center of this markup today and to fully update our election system to protect our election workers, to secure the fundamental right to vote, and to make it easier for all eligible americans republican,
democrat, and independent to participate in our democracy. again to my colleagues for coming together today to strengthen our democratic process. may this first important step be a first step to further protecting the voices of millions of americans and with that, i urge all of us to vote for the substitute and an adopted, we will vote for the bill as amended. sen. klobuchar: thank you, senator padilla. senator feinstein? sen. feinstein: i will not make the statement, but i will say congratulations to all of us. sen. klobuchar: thank you for your statement, it will be admitted to the record. are there any other statements before we vote on the amendment? senator mcconnell kindly mentioned the republicans on the
bipartisan group and we have mentioned senator manchin as well as senator warner who is here with us. i also wanted to mention other senators who were part of a group. with that, recognizing the presence of a quorum, we will now proceed to a vote. the question is first on the adoption of the managers amendment. all those in favor. all those opposed. the opinion of the chair the ayes have it and the amendment is agreed to. are there any further amendments to the bill? seeing none, we are now going to vote with a quorum present at least 10 members are present on the bill before us. the question is on reporting as 4573 the electoral count reform and presidential transition act
sen. klobuchar: i have proxies for senator merkley and senator schumer. they have asked me to announce that they would have voted aye. on behalf of senator merkley, i ask unanimous consent to enter a statement from him into the record. so be it. the bill will be favorably reported as amended. i want to thank -- do you have any other votes you want to announce? i want to thank ranking member blunt, the group truly a bipartisan process. this is a big deal that we got this done. we want to thank lawyers on both sides of the aisle who helped us to get to this point.
the work of staff and before we leave, i want to take a moment to acknowledge one of my staff members who work on this bill, tommy walker. our policy director for the rules committee. he is a graduate of carleton college in minnesota. he first joined my office seven years ago handling my work on the commerce committee. he went on to work on the campaign side, came back and has been with the committee for the last couple of years and minority. he was here on january 6 in the capitol with. we are going to miss him tremendously, he is going on a tremendous job with small business administration. we are very proud of him and i ask colleagues to join me in thanking tommy for his service. [applause] senator blunt? >> thank you.
the vote on the committee and the effort put together by this bipartisan group all indicate the reason this needs to go to the floor and it needs to get past this year. we will move into next year with this done and it will be a helpful addition to the process. thank you for your leadership. sen. klobuchar:, everyone. thank you everyone. the committee is adjourned.
>> sunday on q&a author and poet javier zamora discusses his book in which he details his migration from el salvador to the u.s.. across guatemala, mexico and the sonoran desert. javier zamora, on c-span q&a. ♪ >> c-span's campaign 2022 coverage of the midterm election continues in october with live coverage on c-span including the senator debate between mark kelly -- ron johnson debates