Senators from both parties have reached an agreement to clarify that the vice president only has a ceremonial role in overseeing the certification of the electoral results, according to two Senate sources, the first legislative response to former President Donald Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
The agreement will be part of a larger deal to overhaul the Electoral Count Act, which a bipartisan group of senators plans to unveil as soon as next week. The effort was spawned by Trump’s effort to get Congress and then-Vice President Mike Pence to disregard now-President Joe Biden’s electoral win and install him into a second term, with senators looking to make it harder to do that future.
While constitutional experts and others say the vice president currently can’t disregard a state certified electoral result, Trump continually berated Pence over the issue and told him to simply send the matter back to the states. Pence resisted the effort – despite being a target of Trump and his mob of supporters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The pressure campaign against the vice president has been a key part of the House select committee’s investigation into the Capitol Hill insurrection.
That larger deal is close to being finalized, with senators meeting Wednesday night saying that they are still ironing out some of the language.
“We’re hopeful,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat of West Virginia, on Wednesday about the timetable for announcing a deal.
“We are very close. We have a few technical issues to iron out. And I’m very hopeful we’ll have a bill early next week,” said Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, on Wednesday who added that because of jurisdictional issues, the group may propose a series of bills to address the needed reforms, but they have not made a decision on that yet.
“The Rules Committee clearly has jurisdiction over the Electoral Count Act, Homeland Security clearly has jurisdiction over the Postal Service and over presidential transitions, which we are also trying to smooth out when there’s a case when it isn’t clear who’s won,” she said, explaining why the bill might need to be split up.
The senators said they expected their proposal to be referred to committees of jurisdiction where they would be assessed further before votes on the floor.
“The group has done good work,” Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia said.