Lawmakers take stock of election laws in wake of Jan. 6 anniversary
Democratic lawmakers took stock of election laws in the U.S. on Sunday as the country reels from the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, which sparked calls for voting rights reform on the national level, an effort that has proved to be a difficult legislative lift thus far.
Congressional lawmakers came together on Thursday to mark one year since the deadly riot at the Capitol in which pro-Trump protesters sought to thwart Congress’s counting of the Electoral College vote for the 2020 presidential election, a process that is mandated by the Constitution.
The anniversary came as the House select committee’s investigation into the attack was ramping up, with more than 300 witnesses interviewed and upward of 50 subpoenas issued thus far.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) on Sunday told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the panel has a “powerful and substantive narrative” roughly six months into its investigation. He is one of two GOP lawmakers serving on the congressional panel, along with Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.).
The Illinois Republican said that if the committee stopped receiving information today it would “be able to put out a powerful and substantive narrative” but noted that there is still information the panel is looking to obtain.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) on Sunday said people have “overwhelmingly” participated in the congressional investigation and that the panel is “really connecting all the dots.”
He also relayed information to ABC’s “This Week” regarding former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham’s meeting with the committee, which ran for an hour on Wednesday. Grisham, who served in key roles in the Trump administration, told the panel “a number of names that I had not heard before,” said Raskin, who is also serving on the Jan. 6 committee.
With the House select committee’s investigation moving along and the one-year anniversary of the deadly attack in the rearview mirror, Democratic lawmakers are now looking to bolster their push for election and voting reform to prevent another event like Jan. 6 from happening again in the U.S. and to safeguard against the type of turmoil the rioters sought to achieve last year.
The focus on voting rights grew after a number of Republican-dominated state legislatures enacted restrictive election laws following the 2020 presidential race. At least 19 states passed at least 34 laws that sought to implement more restrictions on access to voting between Jan. 1 and Dec. 7 of last year, according to the Brennan Center.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that such election laws are a “legislative continuation” of what Republicans did on Jan. 6, when they sought to “undermine our democracy, to undermine the integrity of our elections, to undermine the voting power, which is the essence of a democracy.”
As a result, congressional Democrats are looking to act. They want to pass federal voting reform, but political disagreements and internal party clashes are creating an uphill battle.
The party’s marquee voting rights bills — the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — were both blocked by Senate Republicans last year.
Some Democrats are now calling for the filibuster to be abolished to allow the party to pass voting rights legislation with a simple majority vote, but not all members of the caucus are on board. Moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have both been adamant in their opposition to amending Senate rules to pass such legislation.
Pressed by CBS’s Margaret Brennan on the stalemate Democrats have faced with voting rights on Capitol Hill, Pelosi said, “We just have to keep working on that.”
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) on Sunday reiterated his long-held stance that the filibuster should be nixed for matters involving voting rights. He told “Fox News Sunday” that the legislative hurdle “ought not to be applied to constitutional issues like voting.”
Despite disagreements over existing legislation and the filibuster, one compromise may be on the horizon.
Asked about making changes to the Electoral Count Act, an 1887 law that outlines how Congress formally tallies the Electoral College vote, Clyburn told anchor Bret Baier that “we’ll take that” but noted that it is “not all we need to do.”
That effort appears to be shaping up to have bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last week said making changes to the decades-old statute is “worth discussing,” and Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said that “there’s been some expression of interest” in changing that particular law.
Regardless of the direction in which the upper chamber proceeds, voting rights legislation is certain to take center state in the coming weeks. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed earlier this month to force a vote on changing the Senate’s rules by Jan. 17 if Republicans block voting rights legislation again.
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