That’s a scenario that ought to worry Republicans as well as Democrats.
Luckily for both parties, this is one problem Congress actually could solve — or at least greatly diminish. All that’s needed is for the House and Senate to revise their rules for counting electoral votes, most of which come from an 1887 law called the Electoral Count Act.
Last month, a bipartisan panel proposed a list of changes to the 1887 law. They would mostly clarify what the majority of legal scholars — and most members of Congress — thought the statute intended all along. The proposed clarifications would spell out the legitimate grounds for objecting to a state’s electoral votes. They would raise the threshold for objections higher than just one member from each chamber.
And they would make clear what Pence and all his predecessors appear to have known: The vice president doesn’t have some secret power to rule electoral votes in or out.
“We have to cure the mistakes that surfaced if we’re going to continue our democratic republic,” said Zach Wamp, a former Republican congressman from Tennessee, who worked on the proposals.
Wamp and Sen. Angus King, the independent from Maine, are trying to recruit co-sponsors from both parties for a bill. Wamp told me plenty of Democrats have expressed interest, but his fellow Republicans — presumably worried about blowback from Trump loyalists — are proving hard to get. He’d like to win support from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who clearly agrees with the intent of the proposed reforms.
McConnell said as much in the aftermath of Jan. 6, when he delivered a memorably angry speech on the Senate floor. “The Constitution gives us here in Congress a limited role. We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids,” he said. “It would damage our republic forever.”
Senate-watchers say McConnell is likely to duck this battle despite those admirable sentiments. A debate over the myths that made Jan. 6 possible would only reopen his party’s self-inflicted wounds.
Sen. McConnell: Here’s a chance to pass a bill that would make the Constitution stronger, spare the Senate from endless replays of Jan. 6, maybe save a candidate of your party from an attempt to subvert an election, even write your own wise words into law.
How about it?