Seven weeks before the 2022 midterm elections, Democrats in Congress are already looking ahead to the 2024 presidential elections. This week, the House passed the Presidential Election Reform Act (PERA) on a mostly party-line vote of 229-203. The bill tightens the rules for challenging electoral college results, and allows campaigns to sue states for not certifying results or submitting electors by a certain date. It also clarifies that the Vice President's role in overseeing the electoral college is purely ceremonial.
Only nine Republicans voted in favor of the bill, all Never-Trumpers who are leaving office at the end of the year due to retirement or a loss in the primary. The bill's co-sponsor is Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, chief Never-Trumper who recently lost her seat by a landslide in the GOP primary.
Republican leaders say they were shut out of all discussions on the bill and not allowed to offer amendments. Others who opposed the bill say it was unnecessary to update the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which has governed presidential elections for 135 years. Democrats have been pushing this effort since last year, but likely wanted to get it passed with the prospect of losing control of the House looming in November. Mark Jones, political science professor at Rice University, says at its core the bill isn't radical and won't even change things much. "It just clarifies (existing law) so that it's crystal clear what Congress and the Vice President can and cannot do, related to receiving and approving electoral votes they receive from the states," he tells KTRH.
However, the legislation is clearly aimed at the Democrats' (and Never-Trumpers') biggest political foe, Donald Trump. "It just highlights the continued impact of Donald Trump within the Republican party, that this bill is opposed by so many Republicans simply because it is seen as a rebuke of President Trump," says Jones. "And for Democrats, anything they can do to raise the visibility of Donald Trump and remind the public of January 2021, they feel benefits them."
With all of that GOP opposition, getting the bill through the evenly-divided Senate between now and Election Day may prove tricky. "It's not clear what would need to be done to modify this in order to get ten Republicans on board to have a filibuster-proof majority," says Jones. "Right now, they're at six or seven, but I'm not sure they'll be able to get to ten."