Providing for Congressional Disapproval Under Chapter 8 of Title United States Code, of the Rule Submitted By the Department of

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 14, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, in 2022, as America approaches its semiquincentennial of the independence of our Nation, the United States of America stands at a crossroads.

Disturbingly, since the January 6 insurrection of our Capitol which sought to block the peaceful transfer of power after a free and fair election, a growing number of Americans believes that violence against government can be justified, according to recently polling. We have witnessed a disturbing rise of threats against law enforcement officials from various domestic violent extremist groups as well as threats and intimidation against public officials, such as school board officials and election workers, who are simply doing their jobs. We must condemn acts of violence from all corners and prosecute those who seek to harm public officials to the fullest extent of the law.

We also witnessed the rise of election deniers in the 2022 midterm elections who repeated the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen and who pledged their loyalty to a particular candidate or ideology instead of the rule of law.

We have seen a rise of violent actions--a rise of anti-Semitism, a rise of hate crimes--and it is very much connected to the assault on our democratic institutions. All of us must be defenders of the democratic institutions, which are the bedrock of America.

As we saw in the 2020 elections, different interpretations of the Electoral Count Act of 1887 can lead down a dangerous path, such as when former President Donald Trump and his enablers attempted to overthrow a free and fair election won by President Joe Biden, leading to the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. We were there. We were in harm's way. We know exactly how violent that group of insurrectionists was.

President Trump's latest outrage is to talk about suspending the Constitution because he lost the election. Free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power are fundamental to who we are as a nation.

For this reason, several months ago, I joined a bipartisan working group of, roughly, 20 Senators to make urgent changes to our Presidential election processes. I am pleased that, in July of 2022, our group reached a bipartisan agreement to modernize the Electoral Count Act, ECA, of 1887 and to make other needed changes to improve the Presidential transition process.

Our bipartisan working group's legislative proposal, the Electoral Count Reform Act, clarifies the appropriate State and Federal roles in selecting the President and Vice President of the United States. It makes it easier for Congress to identify a single, conclusive slate of electors from each State, in part, by requiring States to follow the rules they set before the election when designating their electors.

We reiterate that the Vice President has a purely ceremonial function in the mandatory joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes. This was in direct response to President Trump's pressure campaign against Vice President Mike Pence to throw out the electoral votes from certain States, which enabled and led to the January 6 insurrection and attack on the Capitol.

We also increase the threshold needed to lodge objections against electoral votes to lessen the chance of frivolous objections in the future.

Our legislation also has a strong provision for expedited Federal judicial review to resolve legal challenges more efficiently before the electoral college meets to cast its votes.

I particularly want to thank Senators Susan Collins and Joe Manchin for leading this effort as well as the other working group members: Senators Portman, Sinema, Romney, Shaheen, Murkowski, Warner, Tillis, Murphy, Capito, Young, Coons, and Sasse. This is how the Senate should operate.

Our working group made several additional, useful recommendations as part of the Presidential Transition Improvement Act and Enhanced Election Security and Protection Act. This legislation would strengthen Presidential transitions, improve the U.S. Postal Service's handling of election mail, stiffen criminal penalties for those who threaten or intimidate election officials, and reauthorize the Election Assistance Commission.

The Election Assistance Commission helps administer grants to States and provides the best practices for election officials in various areas, including cyber security, election audits, and voting accessibility.

I am pleased that the Senate Rules Committee promptly held a hearing on our legislative proposal and that our legislation has been endorsed by a broad and diverse coalition of public interest groups.

In particular, I want to thank Chair Klobuchar and Ranking Member Blunt for making this proposal earlier this year and marking it up in their committee. I am pleased that the Senate Rules and Administration Committee reported out the legislation by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 14 to 1 in September 2022. The committee made improvements in the legislation--again, that is how the process should work--under the leadership of Senators Klobuchar and Blunt.

I am also pleased that the legislation has been cosponsored by our leaders, Leader Schumer and Leader McConnell.

It is now time for the Senate to act. Our legislation, S. 4573, now has a strong bipartisan mix of 37 cosponsors.

We must enact these reforms this month, before the 118th Congress convenes in 2023. We all know that the Presidential election cycle starts early, and we must make sure that this law is enacted before we start in 2023.

As my dear friend the late Congressman John Lewis said, ``Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part.''

I urge every Marylander and American to get involved. Stand up for our democratic system of government and the rule of law.

Congress should act now to make sure that the lawful and rightful winner of the 2024 Presidential election is ultimately certified as the winner by the States and Congress. We cannot fail in this solemn duty to do everything we can to prevent another insurrection like we saw on January 6. We showed how fragile our democracy really is. We have an obligation to defend it together, as we continue our great American experiment with a democratic republic that serves as a beacon of freedom and human rights throughout the world.