Murkowski: ‘Never, ever, ever’ should we see another Jan. 6

Supporters of former President Donald Trump, some shouting “Hang Mike Pence,” stormed the Capitol Jan. 6, 2021, interrupting the certification of the election Trump lost. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Tucked into the last bill Congress passed for the year — the bill to fund government — was an unrelated provision aimed at saving democracy.

The 4,000-page omnibus spending bill included 33 pages reforming the Electoral Count Act of 1887.

It spells out how future presidential elections are to be certified, to avoid a replay of the 2021 attack on the Capitol.

“We need to make sure that never, ever, ever again is a vice president faced with the uncertainty as to what the extent of their authority is when it comes to certification of an election,” U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said.

After losing the 2020 election, then-President Donald Trump and his allies tried to use ambiguities in the 1887 law to block or delay certification, in part by trying to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence. 

The bill Congress passed makes it clear the vice president’s role on certification day is ceremonial. It also specifies how states submit their electoral college votes, to prevent corruption of election results with fraudulent electors.

Murkowski was among a group of senators who negotiated the reforms. 

“This was part of a many month, collaborative effort, a good bipartisan working group,” she said. “I think that they were ultimately 16 (senators) that were involved over the course of the months.”

Murkowski was an original co-sponsor of the legislation this summer. By the time it was added to the spending bill, it had 15 Republican sponsors. 

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan voted against the large spending bill, as did a majority of Republicans in the House and Senate. He cited reasons unrelated to electoral reform, and his office did not respond to an emailed inquiry Wednesday about his views on the electoral reform part of the bill.

Congresswoman Mary Peltola voted for a similar reform bill in the House. It was one of the first votes she took, and it passed largely along party lines. She also voted for the spending bill that included the final legislation.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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