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Bipartisan Electoral College reform, aimed to prevent another Jan. 6, passes U.S. House, splits Wisconsin reps by party

Rep. Gallagher votes no with the rest of state Republicans, but signals openness to supporting the bill should the House vote on it again.

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C. Photo by David Maiolo from Wikimedia Commons.

By Peter Cameron, THE BADGER PROJECT

By a vote of 229-203, the U.S. House approved a measure last week which would simplify and clarify the Electoral College Act of 1887, and proponents say would prevent another Jan. 6 from occurring. 

The Presidential Election Reform Act would modernize the outdated Electoral Count Act to ensure that electoral votes tallied by Congress accurately reflect each state’s public vote for president, reads a one-page explainer released by Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who is shepherding the bill with Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

“It would replace ambiguous provisions of the 19th-century law with clear procedures that maintain appropriate state and federal roles in selecting the President and Vice President of the United States as set forth in the U.S. Constitution,” the document says.

The lack of clarity in the law was what experts say former President Donald Trump tried to exploit when he asked Vice President Mike Pence and Congress to reject President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Allouez)

in the House vote last week, all three Democratic representatives from Wisconsin voted yes, while all five Republican representatives voted no.

Though he voted no, one Wisconsin Republican, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Allouez), suggested an openness to supporting the bill in the future, should the House get another chance at voting for it. He accused the bill of being “hastily rushed to the floor,” in a press release.

“We have an opportunity to finally clarify Congress’ role in certifying a presidential election. We shouldn’t waste it,” he said in the press release. “In the months ahead, the House and Senate must continue working together to build on the Senate framework and arrive at a final solution that will finally end the unconstitutional idea that Congress can overturn a presidential election.”

Only nine Republican representatives voted in favor of the measure, all of whom are either not seeking reelection or were defeated in a primary, including Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. Nearly all of those voted to impeach President Donald Trump the second time, after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Every Democrat voted in favor of the bill.

In the Senate, the bill appears to have the support of all 50 Democrats as well as the 10 Republicans needed to break the filibuster, said UW-Madison political science professor David Canon.

In a show of the bill’s strength in the Senate, it easily passed a vote in the Senate Rules Committee Tuesday, with all Democrats and all but one Republican voting in favor. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel voted to support the bill in the committee vote, while Ted Cruz was the lone no vote.

Canon said the bill will pass eventually, the only remaining question being if the Senate will adopt the House version and send it to the president’s desk for signing, or require further changes, which would require a conference committee between the two bodies to reach a compromise on the final bill.

The Badger Project is a nonpartisan, citizen-supported journalism nonprofit in Wisconsin.

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