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‘Tis the Season to Save Democracy

‘Tis the Season to Save Democracy

Chuck Schumer said he expects to get the Electoral Count Act passed in the omnibus, and it seems likely that even Mitch McConnell is on board.

Oh, optimism, how we’ve missed you! Let’s unpack.

Last night we learned the unsurprising and yet thoroughly unacceptable fact that Donald Trump, Jr was behind plan to use state legislators to overturn the 2020 election results.

Jason Easley wrote in PoliticusUSA, “Donald Trump Jr. was talking about operational control as if the will of the people is something that can be ignored and twisted to suit the needs of an incumbent president who has lost an election.”

So it was really good news that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke on the Senate floor Tuesday saying about the funding of the government, “ I expect an omnibus will contain priorities both sides want to see passed into law, including more funding for Ukraine and the Electoral Count Act, which my colleagues in the Rules Committee have done great work on. It’ll be great to get that done.”

It might take some time but it should be done…. Before the holidays. Patience!

Schumer warned, “Still, we’re going to need a little more time beyond this week to get an omnibus done. To avoid a shutdown this Friday, the Senate should be ready to pass a one-week CR by the end of this week, to give negotiators more time to finish an agreement by the holidays.”

So don’t be discouraged this week when it looks like a punt.

Funding bills aren’t fun usually, since they involve basically agreeing to pay for things they’ve already agreed to spend money on, and other priorities.

But this time, we have something pretty important hiding in the bill, which is the Electoral Count Act reform. The thing that Donald Trump used to try to steal the 2020 election.

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We pointed out yesterday on Substack that it actually seemed likely that this would pass after Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN., the Rules Committee chair, said in an interview, “We will get this done by the end of the year if I have to slow everything else down. It’s going to happen.”

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But Klobuchar is a Democrat and we need ten Republicans to join Democrats pass anything in the Senate. Which is why it’s encouraging that Greg Sargent pointed out in his column there is “A big reason for optimism: It's unlikely Schumer would have announced ECA reform will be on the omnibus if Mitch McConnell hadn't privately indicated his assent, people close to the process tell me.”

Senator Susan Collins’ version (yes, that’s right, Susan Collins) would only allow one slate of recognized electors as chosen by the governor of each state, it clarifies the role of the vice president in the electoral vote count process, raises the objection threshold, and provides judicial review so legislatures and officials can’t refuse to certify the results.


bokeh photography

We are currently still using the law passed in 1887. (Also known as the point in time to which the Republican Party is trying to send women.)

The League of Women Voters provides a history of the ECA:

Currently, this process is governed by a law passed in 1887 called the Electoral Count Act (ECA). The ECA was passed to set up a formal counting procedure for electoral votes following the 1876 presidential election, which saw states submit multiple slates of electors and where a deadlock in electoral votes left Congress unable to resolve the election for several weeks. The 1880 and 1884 elections that followed were also close and forced Congress to put legislation that would put procedures in place to resolve future election disputes. 

How the ECA was Used to Challenge the 2020 Election 

Fast forward to 2021, when lawyers and supporters of former President Trump attempted to use the ECA’s ambiguities to challenge the results of the 2020 election. The loopholes they tried to exploit included persuading Vice President Pence to throw out votes of electors and recruiting slates of “fake electors” from states where Joe Biden had been declared the winner and the electoral slate had been certified in his favor.  

These constitutional and political challenges all played out while thousands of insurrectionists rioted at the US Capitol, broke into the chambers of the US House and Senate, and threatened the lives of members of Congress. 

Readers of PoliticusUSA most likely recall with some horror the fate of prior funding bills ever since the Republican Party started holding the country hostage under former President Obama to get legislative wins that they couldn’t get fairly. It’s often been a countdown to the holidays in a game of chicken when there’s a Democratic president to be foiled.

But perhaps Democrats have finally wised up. Perhaps the is the year Susan Collins finally does something to earn that “moderate” badge she was awarded by the press for unclear reasons.

This year has already offered up hard-won hope for our democracy, thanks to the work of each individual voter showing up and making their voices heard in midterms and special elections across the country.

If we end it with a reformed Electoral Count Act, we can breathe a huge sigh of relief. Yes, there is so much more work to be done to protect democracy, but part of that work is appreciating the work that is done – especially when by some miracle, it’s bipartisan and actually good for the country.

More of this, please, Santa.

This is Sarah Jones with the PoliticusPod for PoliticusUSA’s The Daily.

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1.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s press office email with floor remarks sent to PoliticusUSA (view here).






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