Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, broke from his own party in voting against a bipartisan bill that would bar him from singlehandedly objecting to presidential election results, as he did on Jan. 6, 2021.
The bill, dubbed the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, aims to prevent a constitutional crisis like the one that nearly occurred on Jan. 6, 2021. It clarifies procedural ambiguities that former President Donald Trump tried to exploit in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, sponsored the bill, and it has the support of Democrats and Republicans alike. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, came out support on Tuesday, raising the likelihood of passage. But during a Senate Rules Committee vote on the bill, Cruz objected, saying the bill undermines states’ constitutional autonomy in running their elections and therefore opens the door for voter fraud.
“This bill is a bad bill. This bill is bad law. It’s bad policy and it’s bad for democracy,” Cruz said at the meeting.
“I understand why Democrats are supporting this bill,” he continued. “What I don’t understand is why Republicans are supporting it.”
The bill clarifies that the vice president’s role in certifying Electoral College votes is completely ceremonial. It also raises the threshold for objecting to election results from a single member in each chamber to one-fifth of each chamber, essentially making Cruz’s Arizona objection vote meaningless.
It also clarifies the emergency situations that allow a state to extend voting periods, allows courts to force a governor to certify electors and stops state legislatures from creating their own slate of electors.
Cruz was the only Republican on the committee to oppose the bill Tuesday, with 14 other senators on the committee, which includes both parties’ Senate leaders, voting to advance it. The bill now heads to the full Senate, where it will likely meet overwhelming bipartisan support.
Cruz played a key role on the day of the insurrection. Both he and Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri led campaigns to encourage members to object to the certification of the election results.
Meanwhile, Trump and his allies were also pressuring Vice President Mike Pence, who presided over the Senate, to refuse to certify the results, whipping protesters stationed outside of the Capitol into a frenzy until they ultimately broke through a line of police and stormed into the building.
Even after the attack, Cruz voted against certifying the election results in Arizona, repeating Trump talking points that cast doubt on the state’s results.
The rest of the Senate overwhelmingly voted against Cruz’s objection, and the votes were certified.
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas’ senior Republican senator, voted to reject Cruz’s objection on Jan. 6. But most Texas Republicans in the House voted with Cruz at the time.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, was part of the working group for the bill and said it was the product of weeks of negotiations and consultations with legal experts. McConnell said he was “proud to vote for it and help advance it.”
“The chaos that came to a head Jan. 6 of last year strongly suggests that we find careful ways to clarify and streamline the process,” he said.
The House passed its own version of the bill last week, which included more stringent guardrails, including a one-third minimum threshold for members to object to election results. The differences between the versions have been a source of tension between the two chambers, with McConnell saying the Senate version “is the only chance to get an outcome and make law.”
Cruz aside, all other members of the Senate committee praised one another for reaching a bipartisan solution. The meeting closed to applause.
“This isn’t just another vote at another markup. This vote is about living up to our oath of office,” Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, who previously served as California’s secretary of state, said during the meeting. “That includes working to ensure an insurrection, that an attack on our democracy never occurs again.”