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Stauber votes against bill clarifying ceremonial role of Congress, vice president in certifying elections

The bill is meant to prevent another event like the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.

Peter Stauber speaks in front of a group of supporters holding campaign signs.
U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber speaks in January 2020 at the carpenters' hall in Hermantown.
Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber last week voted against a bill that would make certain the ceremonial role of the vice president and Congress in certifying presidential elections and is meant to prevent another event like the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.

The Presidential Election Reform Act would clarify language in the 1887 Electoral Count Act that President Donald Trump and some of his allies used to tell their followers that on Jan. 6, then-Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the certification of Electoral College results in Congress, had the authority to overturn the results and keep Trump in office. Pence refused to do so.

The bill would make clear the vice president's role is purely ceremonial and would increase the number of members of Congress needed to object to a state's results from one in the House and Senate to one-third of each house.

The Republican and former Duluth police officer said the package of bills was only a political play by Democrats approaching the midterm elections.

Stauber, a Republican from Hermantown, did not object to the election results Jan. 6, and issued a statement during the attack on the Capitol that said "overturning the results of the Electoral College would be an overstep of Congress' limited role."

But on Sept. 21, he voted against the bill that would clarify that role.

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“Rather than focusing on commonsense reforms to ensure the integrity of our elections, this bill is just another attempt by Democrats to distract from their failures right before the midterms,” Stauber said of his vote in a statement to the News Tribune on Thursday.

Only nine Republicans in the House voted for the bill. The Senate's version of the bill, however, is garnering more bipartisan support.

The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, chaired by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, voted 14 to 1 approving the bill for a future vote on the Senate floor.

“We must update the antiquated Electoral Count Act to ensure that electoral votes for president accurately reflect the will of the people in each state and to improve the process for counting electoral votes in Congress," Klobuchar said in a joint statement Tuesday with U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the top Republican on the rules committee. "At today’s committee markup, we implemented key bipartisan improvements that will strengthen the Electoral Count Reform Act and help protect our presidential elections.”

It also has the support of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican of Kentucky.

"I strongly support the modest changes that our colleagues in the working group have fleshed out after literally months of detailed discussions," he said on the Senate floor. "I will proudly support the legislation, provided that nothing more than technical changes are made to its current form. Congress's process for counting the presidential electors' votes was written 135 years ago. The chaos that came to a head on Jan. 6 of last year certainly underscored the need for an update."

Stauber did not join other Republican lawmakers in objecting to the election results Jan. 6, 2021. He released a statement at 12:50 p.m. that day, according to the time stamp on the emailed release, saying he wouldn't stand in the way of the count because, according to the U.S. Constitution, “the role of Congress is to count the electors submitted by the states, not to decide which electors the states should have sent.”

That was sent 20 minutes after rioters had overtaken Capitol Police and were on the building's stairs, according to timelines reported by both the Washington Post and National Public Radio .

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at jlovrien@duluthnews.com or 218-723-5332.
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