HomeUS PoliticsSchumer gives Senate's new bipartisan gang breathing room on post-Jan. 6 reform

Schumer gives Senate’s new bipartisan gang breathing room on post-Jan. 6 reform

According to many individuals familiar with the situation, Chuck Schumer is discreetly sparking bipartisan conversations about amending the Electoral Count Act, signaling a departure from his party’s single-minded commitment to larger election reform legislation.

The Senate majority leader hasn’t committed to supporting the efforts of a growing bipartisan coalition of senators who want to modernize the legislation that sparked the Capitol insurgency on Jan. 6. Before calculating whether legislation might garner 60 votes on the Senate floor, he’ll wait to see what arrangement the group comes up with.

But Schumer’s lack of interest in disbanding the 16-member bipartisan group is notable in and of itself, given that the Electoral Count Act is a difficult issue for Democrats, who have spent months pushing much larger bills that would federalize major aspects of elections while strengthening the Voting Rights Act.

“He’s well aware of what’s going on.” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a member of the bipartisan committee, stated, “And appeared interested in exploring what might be done.” “This seems to be a path that may gain bipartisan support.” And for the time being, that’s the most essential thing to accomplish.”

After Republicans questioned the election results last year and a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, experts have advocated for repealing the obsolete Electoral Count Act. However, both parties have utilized the esoteric legislation to compel votes on election certifications. Negotiators in the upper house are now attempting to make it more difficult for senators to challenge such certificates, as well as clarifying that the vice president cannot reverse the election unilaterally.

After moderate senators Joe Manchin (D-WVa.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) rejected last week to reduce the filibuster in order to pass the more broad elections bill, the group gained traction. Several new Democratic senators, including Maryland’s Ben Cardin and Connecticut’s Chris Murphy, joined the motley crew on Monday.

Prior to the formation of the group, most Democrats discounted the more specific electoral talks that have exploded in recent weeks, seeing them as a politically driven diversion for Republicans to deflect accountability in the aftermath of the failed Senate rules change vote.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the committee’s Republican leader, said the more restricted the focus of their conversations, the faster the group can progress. She said the committee is considering reauthorizing the Election Assistance Commission and enacting federal punishments for anyone who attacks election officials and poll workers, in addition to increasing the objection level and defining the vice president’s position.

“Some people want to go back over the voting changes that were not approved. I’m not one of them. “I’d want to do all we can to come up with a bipartisan measure that can get 60 votes or more,” Collins added. “There is no unanimity, at all, on whether that should be part of any deal that we’re able to get,” she said of restoring parts of the Democrats’ election reform program.

Schumer was one of the Democrats who previously dismissed any attention on the Electoral Count Act as a distraction from the party’s aims of growing voter participation. When compared to larger voting and election changes requested by Democrats, he claimed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s support for altering the 135-year-old statute was “unacceptably weak and even disrespectful.”

That environment, however, has shifted dramatically since Democrats’ failed attempt to alter Senate rules and implement early voting expansions and gerrymandering reforms. On Monday, more than a dozen senators from both parties joined Collins’ Zoom discussion, bringing the total number of participants to seven Democrats and nine Republicans.

Collins, who clashed with Schumer during her previous election campaign and on the Senate floor, said she’s received “mixed” information about whether the Democratic leader would accept her group’s offering.

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Last year, a bipartisan committee began working on an infrastructure package, despite the fact that many in Schumer’s party were doubtful that the initiative would help them achieve their wider policy objectives. The New Yorker, as well as President Joe Biden, endorsed its final product, and McConnell finally voted for it.

‘We’re going to press on and see if we can come up with a bipartisan measure,’ says the senator. I mean, if 16 senators can agree on anything, that’s a substantial number. “The bipartisan infrastructure group’s accomplishment serves as an example for us,” Collins added.

The major difference between the infrastructure negotiations and the present Electoral Count Act debates is that the party-line elections attempt has already failed, leaving Democrats with only a bipartisan agreement as a way forward.

According to an assistant of a member participating in the negotiations, Schumer is “not opposed” to the new organization. But he may have to become more involved if he wants an outcome that gets 60 votes and doesn’t split the party. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Angus King (I-Maine) are each working on their own plan to change the Electoral Count Act.

McConnell has openly endorsed work on the Electoral Count Act, which permitted a small group of GOP senators and the majority of House Republicans to compel votes and discussion on challenges to Biden’s 2020 presidential victory. Working on the bill is “great,” according to Schumer, who said on “The View” last month that Democrats should examine it “but not as a replacement for these critical, vital measures that will maintain the freedom to vote and prevent voter suppression.”

The committee is now dividing into smaller groups to work on specific issues, such as the position of the vice president and the threshold for contesting an election. Senators will meet in person again next week. Given the impending start of midterm election primaries, senators are under pressure to act swiftly, even though they haven’t settled on some of the most pressing issues, such as where to put the threshold for the number of parliamentarians required to demand a vote on state presidential election results.

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On the condition of anonymity, one participant characterized Monday’s Senate huddle as “essentially the first meeting” of the expanded group, and many Democrats acknowledged conversations are still in the early stages.

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