Jonathan Kraut | Legislation Because of January 6

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I wish everyone a very prosperous and healthy new year.   

Some good news for us so far: Gas prices have dropped to below pre-pandemic lows, inflation is cooling off quickly, and Covid is fading. 

Almost two years ago from today, thousands in a Donald Trump-inspired mob descended upon our nation’s Capitol building. More than 964 related arrests have been made and almost 200 have already been convicted. 

It should be clear to all that the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020, was timed and designed to prevent the certification of the presidential election results and possibly create enough chaos as an excuse to suspend the election and have declared martial law.  

The bipartisan Jan. 6 special house committee accepted the task of gathering testimony and data of the Jan. 6 assault. The committee just referred ex-President Trump and Republican House lawmakers Kevin McCarthy, R-California, Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Andy Biggs, R-Arizona, and Scott Perry, R-Pennsylvania, for possible criminal prosecution. 

But many may not understand that the fundamental purpose of the committee.   

The committee’s primary charter is not to refer prosecution to the Department of Justice, but to better understand and thus help draft legislation to prevent future similar disruptions to Congress’ official proceedings. 

News sources seem to have ignored these critical contributions by the committee. The idea is that if the conditions that led to the mob attack and trespass on our Capitol can be eliminated, a future event would be very unlikely. 

The good news: Congress just passed new legislation and more ideas have been opened for discussion and additional legislative adjustments.  

Just before Christmas, the Senate, and a day later the House, ratified a bill to overhaul the process by which Congress accepts the electoral college vote certified and submitted by the states. This bill tweaks the Electoral Count Act of 1887, making it harder for rogue senators and representatives to stall and challenge state electoral college vote submissions. 

The new 2022 Electoral Count Act requires that objections from one-fifth of both chambers be required to contest the certification findings offered by a state regarding presidential election results. 

Until now, an objection by just one senator and just one member of Congress was all it took to gum up the works and delay vote verification.  

Simply claiming one doesn’t like the vote outcome without verifiable evidence should not nullify a free and fair election. The Joint Session of Congress for election certification by majority vote is able to override any fraudulent or unsubstantiated objection to accepting certified state results. 

But there were possible interpretive gaps that were just addressed. 

This new bill clarifies the role of the vice president in the acceptance of election results.  

The  1887 Act states “opened by the President of the Senate (the V.P.), all the certificates and papers purporting to be certificates of the electoral votes … shall make a list of the votes as they shall appear from the said certificates; and the votes having been ascertained and counted according to the rules in this subchapter provided, the result of the same shall be delivered to the President of the Senate, who shall thereupon announce the state of the vote, which announcement shall be deemed a sufficient declaration of the persons, if any, elected President and Vice President of the United States.” 

Somehow Trump lawyer John Eastman, the Donald himself, and other congressional Republicans, pushed the outlandish concept that if Vice President Mike Pence did not read or accept the electoral votes, they didn’t count.   

If true, this meant democracy was over if the vice president could decide who wins the presidency, and presumably regarding his own position as well. This new bill removes any ambiguity regarding the vice president’s ability to ignore certified vote counts.  

This bill also includes clarification of whom is submitted to Congress as “electors.”   

The electoral college process designates a “slate of electors” comprised by individuals from a state where each person represents each electoral college vote cast by that state.  

In other words, California, which has 55 electoral votes, designates 55 individuals who become the slate from California to represent for whomever won the popular presidential California vote. This bill clarifies how to “identify a single, conclusive slate of electors from each state.” This clarification eliminates Trump’s assertion and coordinated efforts that he could submit a slate of fraudulent state electors.  

While it chilled me that democracy was almost overthrown by Trump and his henchmen, it thrills me to know that Congress has already taken measures to keep our American democracy alive.   

Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations agency, is the CEO of a private security firm, is the CFO of an accredited acting conservatory, a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.

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