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Moderate senators are increasingly optimistic they can come to a compromise on reforms to the Electoral Count Act (ECA) aimed at clarifying its provisions after former President Donald Trump tried to use the law last year to overturn the presidential election.
“I really think it’s something we can accomplish,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Tuesday. “It really is basically what caused the insurrection.”
“We remain committed to a bipartisan bill that can garner 60 or more votes so that we can get it enacted,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also said.
Collins said the bipartisan group working on the legislation is broken into several different subcommittees tackling different issues. She said the co-chairs of each committee plan to discuss their progress on a Zoom call Friday.
As that group of moderates continued to try to hash out a compromise, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Angus King, I-Maine, released their own proposal for changes to the ECA. Among other things, it would narrow the circumstances under which senators may object to a state’s slate of electors and make it harder to bring such objections.
“I do think it’s a positive sign that Democrats are now willing to debate,” Collins said of the proposal. “As you know, initially Sen. Schumer poo-pooed the idea of focusing on the Electoral Count Act.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., himself even appeared open to the Senate working on the ECA Tuesday.
“We’ll have to see what they come out,” Schumer said of the group of moderates led by Collins and Manchin.
“There’s another bill that was introduced today,” Schumer added, referring to the Durbin-King-Klobuchar proposal. “But it sure doesn’t replace the need to deal with voting rights, dark money and reapportionment.”
That’s not nearly as firm as the comment Schumer made on Jan. 6, when he said a suggestion from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of tackling ECA reform as a compromise issue was a “cynical idea” meant “to divert attention from the real issue.” Just passing ECA reform was “unacceptably insufficient,” Schumer said.
But Republicans filibustered the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act — the two bills Democrats wrote to overhaul election procedures. And Democrats failed when they tried to nuke the filibuster to pass them via a simple majority. So with those two bills on ice, Schumer seems to be softening his stance.
Multiple other Democrats Tuesday appeared to be on the same page with Schumer’s newer comments, still pushing for the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act but open to doing work on the ECA in the meantime.
“President Trump tried to use a very warped new interpretation of the Electoral Count Act to try to overturn the election. Now that we know how bad actors can misuse the ECA, we should certainly fix its weaknesses,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said. “I’m encouraged my colleagues are discussing ways to address this. But amending the ECA is not a replacement for legislation to protect voting rights that would address the anti-voting restrictions being passed in many states by Trump allies.”
“I look forward to seeing how bipartisan efforts in the Senate to restore trust in our Electoral College system develop,” Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said. “Passing additional legislation to protect and expand voting access must remain a priority, but I am open to opportunities to find common ground and deliver for the American people.”
It’s not clear how widespread GOP support for ECA reform might be, particularly among House Republicans. It may be especially difficult for some Republicans to support such legislation after Trump came out against the effort this weekend.
But if nearly all Democrats stick together behind any compromise bill, and at least 10 Republicans support it in the Senate, it’s looking increasingly possible that Congress could pass an election bill after all.
Fox News’ Alex Rego contributed to this report.