Republicans Divided on Electoral Count Act: McConnell, Yes; Cruz, No

Susan Jones | September 28, 2022 | 9:38am EDT
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Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was among the Republicans who objected or planned to object to the certification of electors on January 6, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was among the Republicans who objected or planned to object to the certification of electors on January 6, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday threw his support behind the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act of 2022, which is intended to "reform and modernize" an "outdated" 1887 law guiding the congressional tally of each state's electoral votes.

The Senate Rules Committee advanced the bill on Tuesday following months of bipartisan discussions; the House has already passed its version of the bill.

“I will proudly support the legislation, provided that nothing more than technical changes are made to its current form," McConnell announced on Tuesday. "I want to thank Senator Collins and Senators Capito, Murkowski, Portman, Romney, Sasse, Tillis, and Young for their intense work with Democratic colleagues to get this right."

But Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called it a "bad bill" and "bad policy."

“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," Cruz said. "I think this bill does that, and so I intend to oppose it."

Sen. McConnell, in a floor speech on Tuesday, explained what the bill does: “It raises the threshold for objecting to the electoral count, preserving options if something incredibly unlikely were to happen, but ensuring claims with hardly any support can’t paralyze the process."

(At least one-fifth of both House and Senate members must object to a state's electors, up from one member of each chamber.)

“It makes the already plain fact of the 12th Amendment even clearer: that the Vice President has never had, and will never have, discretionary powers over the counting," McConnell said. (The vice president's role is ceremonial.)

“It protects states’ primacy in appointing their electors, but ensures they publicize the rules before the election. It rejects unwise changes like creating new causes of action that would leave every election up to the courts and create uncertainty," McConnell said.

"And Senator Collins’s bill does all these modest but important things without capitulating to our Democratic colleagues’ obsession with a sweeping federal takeover of all election law.

"I look forward to supporting the legislation as introduced in committee,” McConnell added.

The bill also requires “extraordinary and catastrophic” events for a state to change the election date, and it removes a provision that allows states to declare failed elections.

Sen. Cruz said the bill poses "serious constitutional questions."

"The text of the Constitution, Article Two says, ‘Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.” This bill is Congress trying to intrude on the authority of the state legislatures to do that. But it’s also exceptionally bad policy.

"Unfortunately, I understand why Democrats in this body support it."

Cruz gave three reasons for the Democrat support:

“Number one, this bill is all about Donald J. Trump. And nobody in our lifetimes has driven Democrats in this body more out of their minds than President Trump.

“We know the Democrats aren't opposed to objecting to elections of presidential electors. We know that because Democrats objected in 1969, then they objected again in 2001, then they objected again in 2005, and then they objected again in 2017.

"So Democrats have a long history of going up and objecting to electors. And by the way, in two of those times, 1969 and 2005, it wasn't just a Democrat House member who objected. A Democrat senator joined in that objection and triggered the debate vote.

"We also know the brazen hypocrisy that the Democratic rage at Trump has produced, where we have a kangaroo circus of a January 6th committee -- literally chaired by a Democrat who made one of those objections -- insisting that it is now utterly unimaginable to object to a presidential election and to the outcomes there.

"We also know the Democrats are hell-bent on federalizing 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 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 since the dawn of time. Democrats used to acknowledge that it 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 anybody who says that it does happen is wearing a tinfoil hat and is a moonbat conspiracy theorist.

"That is wildly dishonest, I believe."

Cruz also slammed the Democrats' effort to pass what they call "voter reform" bill, which would eliminate voter ID requirements, allow fraud-prone ballot harvesting, and add felons and potentially illegal aliens to voter rolls."

In addition to Senators Collins and Manchin, the 22 Senators (11 Republicans and 11 Democrats) co-sponsoring the bill include: Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).

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