The most certain thing about the Senate when it comes to guns is that they will never pass what the House just did, because of the filibuster. The question is whether Republicans have painted themselves in a corner of having to do the least little thing possible by making such a big deal out of the fact that they are deigning to have these discussions with Democrats. Make no mistake, though, Republicans are driving this process, and they are not going to allow anything Democrats could reasonably call a substantive win.
Meanwhile, the talks drag on. “This morning,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in his floor statement Thursday, “my colleague Senator Murphy reported that the group is making good progress and they hope to get something real done very soon.” Few details have emerged this week, with negotiators reportedly having just set the rough outline of what might be included—encouraging states to create their own red flag laws, tightening up criminal background checks, and money for mental health treatment.
On the election reform/Jan. 6 front, Collins is telling reporters they are close to an agreement for legislation to reform the Electoral Count Act. Those talks started about six months ago, when Republicans feared that there might actually be enough pressure on Democratic holdouts Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) to create a filibuster carve out for Voting Rights Act restoration. Collins jumped in to pull Manchin away into bipartisan talks on the ECA reform.
“We’ve made a lot of major decisions,” Collins told reporters Wednesday. “We’ve resolved a lot of issues, but we have some more work to do, which I hope we’ll finish up this week.” Again, they’ve been meeting for six months. They have reportedly agreed in principle on reducing the vice president’s part in the process, raising the threshold for votes objecting to a state’s electoral count, protecting state and election officials from threats, and formalizing the presidential transition process.
What they haven’t agreed upon is kind of a big one: What happens when or if a state misses the “safe harbor” deadline, the day by which any election disputes—recounts or audits—have to be resolved and the states certify their results, or when a state submits an alternate slate of electors. It’s actually pretty disturbing that Republicans working in supposed good faith on this can’t or won’t agree with Democrats on making sure that the states are submitting valid electors to Congress.
It can’t be coincidence that Collins is popping up with this the same day that the public Jan. 6 hearings start. If it’s not a bid to create a bit of a diversion, it’s an effort at ass-covering for Republicans, ahead of what they anticipate will be very damaging testimony. It also pulls the attention of at least some of the Democratic senators supposedly key to gun negotiations away from that process.
Democrats are aware of that, at least, and want to use it to push ECA reform over the finish line. “I hope the American people will tune in to these hearings and realize just how close we came to overturning a democratic election. And I do hope that will propel—I hope that will break new energy behind some of the election reform efforts,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) told NBC News.
Because the bill needs to pass to shut down the potential of a MAGA coup in 2024. It is not a substitute for the Voting Rights Act restoration—which would guarantee that the vote Congress ends up counting is free and fair—but it is necessary. As it stands ECA reform would mean that Congress would accurately count an election rigged by voter suppression and Republican cheating.
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