WASHINGTON, Jan 20 (Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. senators are discussing a scaled-down law focused on safeguarding election results and shielding election officials from harassment after Democrats twice defeated a bill on the right to vote.
Lawmakers led by Republican Senator Susan Collins and including conservative Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, are due to meet virtually Friday to discuss reforming the Voter Count Act of 1887, sometimes called the ECA, which allows members of Congress to contest the results of the presidential elections.
The ECA formed the basis of an effort by former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies to cancel the January 6, 2021 presidential election, when thousands of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol and disrupted certification of election results.
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Collins, who said his group includes six Democrats, told reporters the goal was “a truly bipartisan electoral reform bill that would address many of the issues that arose on Jan. 6 and help restore trust.” in our elections.
Senator Angus King, an independent who caucus with Democrats, is separately preparing to introduce CEA reform legislation that would limit the role of Congress and give responsibility for resolving disputes and challenges with states, according to an aide.
The White House welcomed the efforts, but made it clear that it does not see CEA reform as a substitute for broad suffrage legislation.
“Certainly the president is open to engaging, talking with, as we are, even if not a substitute, Republicans and others who are interested in moving forward,” said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
Lawmakers believe there is bipartisan support in Congress for such initiatives.
“We see what happened in the insurgency,” said Manchin, who leads the Democratic side of the bipartisan effort. “We’re going to get a group of people together, Democrats and Republicans, and get a good bill that protects the vote count.”
Manchin spoke a day after he and Sinema thwarted an attempt by fellow Democrats to overturn the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for most laws and pass sweeping majority voting legislation. .
The Jan. 6 Capitol riot and a wave of restrictive new election laws in Republican-led states spawned by Trump’s false claims about a stolen 2020 election have raised concerns about the integrity of the U.S. electoral system.
Manchin said he wants threatening or accosting an election official to be a federal crime.
After the failed Democratic push for suffrage on Wednesday, senators said it may be possible to reach the 60-vote threshold with more limited legislation aimed at curbing congressional intervention in the election presidential elections through ECA reform.
“The people who tried to nullify the last election focused on using this law in a way that would have subverted the will of the people. And so there is value in clarifying the law,” the senator said. Republican Mitt Romney, member of the Collins group. told reporters.
Collins did not provide any timeline for the production of a bill and said the band had many issues to work out from the start. But she added that their model is the bipartisan talks that produced last year’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
Time is running out for lawmakers to act. The campaign is already underway ahead of the November 8 election, when Republicans are favored to regain a majority in at least one house of Congress, and the first nominating contests are held in Texas on March 1.
The Collins Group is also considering proposals to protect elected officials from harassment and wrongful removal, provide election security and improve election management, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said CEA reform was worth discussing in comments that Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, later dismissed.
“I think it needs to be fixed,” McConnell said Thursday. “We should be able to find a bipartisan way to solve this problem.”
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Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Mark Porter
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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