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House Passes Overhaul of Electoral Count, Moving to Avert One other Jan. 6 Crisis


WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday took the primary major step to answer the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol, voting mostly along party lines to overhaul the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act, the law that former President Donald J. Trump tried to take advantage of that day to overturn his defeat.

The bill was essentially the most significant legislative answer yet to the riot and the monthslong campaign by Mr. Trump and his allies to invalidate the 2020 presidential election, however it also underscored the lingering partisan divide over Jan. 6 and the previous president’s continuing grip on his party.

It cleared a divided House, passing on a 229 to 203 vote. All but nine Republican opposed the measure, wary of angering Mr. Trump and unwilling to back laws co-written by Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming and a pacesetter of the House select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6 and what led to them.

The partisan division could complicate future negotiations with the Senate, which is moving ahead with its own bipartisan version of the laws that differs from the House bill in some significant respects. Lawmakers now say they don’t expect final approval before Congress returns for a lame-duck session after the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

The laws is aimed toward updating the law that governs Congress’s counting of the electoral votes solid by the states, the ultimate step under the Structure to verify the outcomes of a presidential election and historically a mostly ceremonial process. Democrats said that the aftermath of the 2020 election, when Mr. Trump and his allies set in motion a failed plan to throw out legitimate electoral votes and keep him in power, resulting in the violent disruption of the congressional count by his supporters on Jan. 6, made clear that the statute needed to be modified.

“These are common sense reforms that can preserve the rule of law for all elections moving forward,” said Representative James P. McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the Rules Committee. “Time is running out before the subsequent election.”

One key provision within the bill, which can be contained within the Senate proposal, would make clear that the role of the vice chairman, who by law presides over the counting of the ballots in his capability as president of the Senate, is strictly ministerial. After the 2020 election, Mr. Trump and his advisers tried but failed to influence Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to just accept electoral votes from states where Trump was falsely claiming that he had won.

The measure also would raise the edge substantially for Congress to think about an objection to a state’s electoral votes, requiring that at the least one-third of the House and Senate sign on to such a challenge, up dramatically from the one member of every chamber that’s now required. The Senate proposal has a lower threshold, requiring one-fifth of the House and Senate to agree.

Members of each parties have raised objections in recent elections, though none have been sustained by a majority of the House and Senate. The House bill would also more narrowly define the grounds for an objection to those with an outlined constitutional basis.

“Ultimately, this bill is about protecting the need of the American voters, which is a principle that’s beyond partisanship,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren, the California Democrat who leads the Administration Committee and introduced the measure with Ms. Cheney. “The underside line is that if you desire to object to the vote, you’d higher have your colleagues and the Structure in your side.”

The laws can be a direct response to Mr. Trump’s efforts to orchestrate the submission of faux slates of electors in states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. It might require that states select their electors under laws in place before the election, a provision intended to stop states from reversing course in the event that they don’t just like the result. And the bill would allow candidates to sue state officials in the event that they did not submit their electors or certified electors that didn’t match the election results.

It also would lay out the circumstances by which a federal judge could extend an election following a catastrophe and force election officials to count ballots or certify an election in the event that they refused to achieve this.

Republicans said the laws represented a renewed Democratic try and exert more federal control over elections which can be normally the responsibility of state officials and courts.

How Times reporters cover politics. We depend on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they should not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.

Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, called it “one other try and federalize elections on the expense of states.” Other Republicans accused Democrats of rushing the laws to the ground without review by the suitable committees or engaging Republicans.

Additionally they accused Democrats of using the bill to take aim at Mr. Trump, portraying the laws as an extension of the work of the special committee investigating Jan. 6, which most House Republicans decry as a partisan exercise aimed toward blaming Mr. Trump for the assault on the Capitol.

“That is nothing greater than an attack on President Trump and the 2020 election, an attack on a person who has not been in office for nearly two years,” said Representative Guy Reschenthaler, Republican of Pennsylvania.

Lawmakers said the laws’s close association with Ms. Cheney led House Republicans to desert it in large numbers. Her aggressive criticism of Mr. Trump prompted Republicans to remove her from a celebration leadership position in May and he or she lost her re-election primary last month.

But Ms. Cheney noted strong support for the measure from conservative jurists and analysts and called on Republicans to embrace it.

“In case your aim is to stop future efforts to steal elections, I’d respectfully request that conservatives should support this bill,” she said on the House floor. “If as a substitute your aim is to depart open the door for elections to be stolen in the longer term, you would possibly resolve to not support this or some other bill to deal with the Electoral Count Act.”

Leaders of the bipartisan group behind the Senate bill, which was made public in July, were surprised by the sudden House motion on the laws just days after it was introduced and after months with few details on how the House was proceeding. Backers of the Senate bill said the House approach could lead on to more election lawsuits, a prospect that would increase Republican opposition. But they continue to be hopeful the bills could possibly be reconciled.

“We will work together to attempt to bridge the considerable differences,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and certainly one of the chief authors of the Senate bill. “Nevertheless it would have been higher if we had been consulted prior to the House sponsors deciding to drop their bill.”

The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to think about that chamber’s version next week. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota and the chairwoman of the panel, is preparing a new edition that comes with changes sought by election experts and other lawmakers in hopes of enhancing its possibilities of approval. The laws to date has at the least 10 Republican backers, meaning it could overcome a G.O.P. filibuster if all Democrats supported it.

Despite the differences, supporters of the laws said it needed to turn out to be law.

“Failure just isn’t an option,” said Representative Pete Aguilar of California, a member of the Democratic leadership and the Jan. 6 panel. “We’ve got to place a bit of reform on the president’s desk. We’ve got to guard democracy.”

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