Senate GOP hints at openness to a very specific voting reform bill

John Barrasso, Mitch McConnell, John Thune
(Image credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, floated the idea Tuesday that his caucus has "some interest" in amending the 1887 Electoral Count Act, telling Axios that "as we saw last time around, there are some things there that, I think, could be corrected." Former President Donald Trump and his allies used a fringy interpretation of the law in an unsuccessful push to get Vice President Mike Pence to essentially overturn the election last Jan. 6.

By Wednesday, a number of GOP senators were generally agreeing with Thune, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The Electoral Count Act "obviously has some flaws," he said. "And it is worth, I think, discussing." Specifically, Thune said, "the role of the vice president needs to be codified, so it's clear what that is," and "there's some question about how many senators or House members it ought to take to object before it triggers a vote."

Senate Democrats favor these reforms, but many suggested this new Republican openness to even modest electoral reform was a stall tactic to derail Democratic pushes for broader laws to make it easier to vote in every federal election. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has set a Jan. 17 deadline to vote on two voting bills, both facing certain GOP filibuster.

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) laughed when asked Politico asked about the GOP's door-cracking to reform. "Put something on the table and let's vote," Warren said. "I want to see something. I'm not off to chase those rabbits until somebody has shown some real detail."

Schumer said Tuesday it "makes no sense" to reform the Electoral Count Act without passing other voting-rights bills. "If you're going to rig the game, and then say, 'Oh, we'll count the rigged game accurately,' what good is that?" he asked.

Uniform GOP opposition to the Democratic proposals "leaves little area for common ground on broader voting reform," Politico notes, "but perhaps some overlap on how Congress certifies elections." And the two Democratic senators most opposed to changing the filibuster to pass election reform, Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), seemed enthusiastic about any voting legislation that can get bipartisan support.

"Anything that we can do to enhance the process to make it much more secure is something we should be looking into," Manchin said Wednesday. "It's just encouraging to hear that both Democrats and Republicans are both concerned."

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