WASHINGTON ― Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) cast the lone vote Tuesday against a bipartisan bill designed to prevent another insurrection like the one on Jan. 6, 2021.
Cruz played a starring role that day, leading a faction of Senate Republicans who objected to the 2020 presidential election result, bolstering then-President Donald Trump’s lies about election fraud and siding with a violent mob of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol.
The Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday approved a bipartisan bill, by a vote of 14 to 1, that would make it harder for Cruz to raise another presidential election objection in 2025. Cruz was the only committee member who voted against the bill.
“The biggest reason this bill is problematic is that it is intended to decrease the ability of the United States Congress to address the very real problem of voter fraud,” Cruz said.
Cruz was careful not to say directly that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election by fraud, since that would be an obvious lie. Dozens of courts, as well as top officials in Trump’s campaign and his administration, have said that the election wasn’t rigged, contrary to the former president’s bogus claims.
Instead, Cruz railed against a straw man: the idea that there is no voter fraud at all, as in not a single instance of an ineligible voter accidentally casting a ballot or deliberately voting twice.
In 2020, Cruz claimed, “Democrats began clutching their pearls and insisting there is no voter fraud, it never has happened, and anyone who says it does happen is wearing a tinfoil hat and is a conspiracy theorist.”
An investigation by The Associated Press published in 2021 found several hundred potentially fraudulent votes in 2020, almost all of them perpetrated by people acting alone and not as part of a conspiracy to rig the election. The sum total of their individual efforts came nowhere close to affecting the election outcome in a single state.
“It doesn’t eliminate Congress’ ability to look at any aspect of elections; it just says one or two people can’t do it.”
– Sen. Angus King (I-Maine)
Democrats don’t deny that such picayune voter fraud exists, but Cruz pretended otherwise. And he hinted that maybe Democrats do use fraud to throw elections.
“Today’s Democrats have made, I think, a really cynical political decision that voter fraud, they believe, helps elect more Democrats, and so the more fraud, the better,” Cruz said. “What this bill does is decrease the ability of Congress to address instances of fraud when it occurs.”
One of the bill’s key provisions would require a fifth of lawmakers in both the House and Senate to object to a state’s election result. When Cruz raised his objection on Jan. 6, 2021, he needed only himself and one member of the House. The effort failed to change the outcome, but it gave Trump an opportunity for his insurrection attempt.
Cruz said the Electoral Count Act of 1887, the law that created the congressional procedures for certifying a presidential election, had been carefully drafted following the contentious presidential election of 1876. But the bill would merely amend that law, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said in response to Cruz. Another key provision would simply state that the vice president has a ceremonial role in electoral count proceedings; Trump had wanted Mike Pence to somehow throw out the 2020 result.
“It’s not a new effort of Congress to intrude into the electoral process; it is merely intended to clarify a law which virtually everyone that has discussed over the past 25 years has agreed is archaic and confusing,” King said. “It doesn’t eliminate Congress’ ability to look at any aspect of elections; it just says one or two people can’t do it.”
Rules Committee chair Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) suggested that election standards from the late 1880s might not be the best model for today.
“It is not my favorite precedent because I wouldn’t have even been allowed to vote,” Klobuchar said.
The bill’s supporters have said it will get a full Senate vote sometime before the end of the year.
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