WASHINGTON - At a Senate Rules Committee hearing entitled, “The Electoral Count Act: The Need for Reform,” Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) highlighted the importance of updating this outdated law.
Klobuchar outlined four key issues that proposed reforms to the Electoral Count Act should address:
- Clarifying that the Vice President does not have the power to accept or reject lawfully cast electoral votes;
- Raising the threshold to challenge electoral votes during the joint session of Congress;
- Preventing state legislatures from appointing electoral slates against the will of voters after the election concludes; and
- Ensuring that the electoral votes Congress receives accurately reflect each state’s electoral results, including giving candidates the right to go to court and prevent rogue governors from sending invalid electors.
A transcript of Klobuchar’s full opening statement as delivered is available below. Video is available for online viewing HERE.
Well, thank you so much, everyone. I wanted to wait for Senator Blunt, not much waiting at all. But I did that just because we have chaired this committee together. We're good friends. And certainly as we approach this important bill, the Electoral Count Act. It's really important that this spirit of bipartisanship gets us through and gets this thing passed. I want to thank Roy Blunt and our colleagues who will be here shortly. I want to mention Senator King, who we're going to hear from this morning, who's been a major leader in this area, worked with me and Senator Durbin on our bill that we presented to the group that came together to work on this. I want to thank Senator Capito, who was part of the bipartisan group and is a valued member of our committee. And I know Senator Warner was also part of the group who's a member of our committee, we thank him. And we're joined by the former Secretary of State, Senator Padilla, a very valued member of our committee as well as Senator Fischer, who we may be seeing up here at some point in the coming Congress. So I thank all of you and I want to welcome Senator Collins and Senator Manchin to this beautiful hearing room. Welcome. You can look at the ships. I know you'd like to sail, Senator Manchin and they will remind you of Maine, Senator Collins while you hear Senator Blunt and I give our opening remarks.
So the Electoral Count Act was passed in 1887, as I noted, in response to the disputed election between Rutherford Hayes and Samuel Tilden, just something that just comes off the lips of everyone at this hearing today. I point this out because it was a whole lot of time ago. And that bill was put in place to govern how Congress, at that time, counts electoral votes for president. While it hasn't gotten much attention in the next 130 years, it became the cornerstone, sadly, of a plan hatched by President Trump and his allies that led to an attempt and this insurrection at the Capitol where there was a possibility, Senator Blunt and I remember that day well, where the will of the American people could have been overturned. It culminated in a violent mob desecrating our nation's Capitol. On that dark day, enemies of our democracy sought to exploit the provisions of this antiquated law to subvert the results of a free and fair election. I remember this day well because Senator Blunt and I were the ones at 3:30 in the morning with Vice President Pence that were walking through the broken glass. We had done that walk 13 hours before. It was celebratory. It was amazing. It was a big ceremony. We had a big procession. At the end of the day, it was just us, closed doors, broken windows, glass all over the place, spray painted columns. But yet our democracy rose again, the inauguration, and we went forward. And part of that is working together to make sure that laws can't be used by anyone of any party, any political persuasion, in a way that undercuts the will of the people.
Number one, the claim was made that the Electoral Count Act, as it exists, would allow the Vice President to refuse to accept electoral votes that were lawfully cast. We watched in horror as a mob stormed the Capitol chanting “Hang Mike Pence” and got within 40 feet of the Vice President of the United States. We know these claims about the Vice President's authority were false. But in the proposals that we have put forward, Senator King and the group, the bipartisan group, make it absolutely clear that the Vice President doesn't have this power. In the days and weeks before the insurrection. They claimed that the law allowed state legislatures to appoint their own electors if they declared a failed election. And state representatives in Wisconsin and Michigan were pressured to do just that. They claimed the law allowed so-called rogue electors to substitute their own views for the will of the voters. They recruited people in multiple states to send in fraudulent votes and slates. My proposal here and the bipartisan work that you have done would guard against efforts like those by ensuring that candidates can go to federal court to stop rogue governors from sending invalid electoral votes.
They also planned to force debate and votes on objections to six states' electoral votes. And that's when I think everyone learned just one senator and one congressman, if joined together, can actually gum up the proceedings. I remember Senator Blunt and I realizing it was going to take at least 24 hours before we even knew the insurrection was coming our way. And as Senator Collins just pointed out to me, and as history has shown us, there have been other objections over the years, regardless of party. People can make objections. No one's suggesting we stop them from speaking out. It's just that there's got to be a minimum that makes sense before Congress would step in and delay the counting of the electoral vote.
I will never forget, as I said, what happened that day. I don't think any of us will. And it is time to make sure that we reform this bill. As I noted, Senator King, Durbin and I released draft legislation. This great bipartisan group was put together and led by Senator Collins and Senator Manchin. Senator Blunt and I have met with the bipartisan group; we've engaged with them multiple times, including with our staff's assistance. And they worked for months to get consensus. They did.
As these discussions have progressed, consensus has emerged that any reforms to the Electoral Count Act must address at least four key issues which I've already mentioned: the vice president issue, the number of people objecting—the threshold, the way the slates could be picked at the last minute after an election is done, and then finally, the process of making sure you can head into court if necessary. I want to make clear that since the 2020 election, when more Americans voted than ever before during a global pandemic, we've seen a tidal wave of voter suppression laws. I appreciate the work Senator Manchin and a group of us did, together, trying to fix that. I still hope we can get some of those reforms done in the future.
And with that, I want to turn it over to my friend and colleague, Senator Blunt and again, thank him for his bipartisan work on this. It's our job to ensure this never happens again. No matter who's in charge or what happens, we're focused on the future.