Manchin & Sinema Get Behind Election Reform, In Blow To GOP

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So-called moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are backing a push to reform the legal procedures for Congressional certifications of the outcomes of presidential elections. It’s that particular juncture of the electoral process that allies of then-President Trump were targeting on January 6 of last year, when a mob of the then-president’s supporters descended on the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification process. The specific law that is at issue is the Electoral Count Act, which includes provisions like an allowance for members of Congress to challenge components of the presidential election results. Reforms could include raising the number of Congresspeople required to back a challenge before it goes to a vote or changing the grounds allowed for objections.

During the process following the 2020 presidential election, Republican members of Congress ran with those provisions. Well over 100 Republicans in the House and over half a dozen Republican Senators voted against certifying certain components of Biden’s win, although no substantive evidence had emerged (or has since emerged) indicating that there was any reason to be concerned about the integrity of that victory. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sounded open to deliberating over reforms to the Electoral Count Act this week, saying, in reference to the law, that “it obviously has some flaws. And it is worth, I think, discussing.” He was not one of the Republicans to vote against certifying all of Biden’s electoral votes.

As for Manchin and Sinema, Manchin said that reforming the Electoral Count Act was a “good start, at least they’ve got people talking now,” while Sinema spokesperson John LaBombard said that she “continues to believe bipartisan action is needed to strengthen our democracy and has been in constant contact with colleagues in both parties on this and other potential areas of common ground.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had a slightly different view that no doubt represented the perspectives held by a good share of Democratic Senators, saying: “Put your money where your mouth is. Put something on the table and let’s vote… I want to see something. I’m not off to chase those rabbits until somebody has shown some real detail.”

In the near future, the Senate is planning work on what would appear to be the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently revealed plans for a vote on changing the filibuster rules in the Senate to allow for the passage of voting rights protections in the event that Republicans continue to block those proposed protections from moving forward, and it’s clear that Republicans intend to do just that. It’s unclear, though, that a vote on changing the filibuster rules — which currently demand 60 votes in the 100-member chamber before moving forward on most bills — would be successful. Conservative Democrats like Manchin continue to cling to the filibuster.