Why The Lame Duck Session Will Be Crucial For January 6 Investigation And Election Legislation


Congress returned to Washington on Monday to begin its final session before new members take office in January, and lawmakers are expected to address several measures related to the January 6 aftermath that are likely to be on the chopping block under a Republican-controlled House next year.

Key Facts

The Senate is expected to vote on a legislative package sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) aimed at preventing future presidential candidates from obstructing the electoral vote process, as former President Donald Trump and his allies attempted to do on January 6, 2021 in an effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The legislation, which passed the House in September, would strengthen and modernize the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act, a loosely written law that governs how electoral votes are certified in a presidential election.

The reforms proposed by the Senate bill would require one-fifth of the members in each chamber of Congress to agree to delay an electoral vote count; current rules trigger a delay when one senator and one House representative object to the count, a move Trump allies Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) and Josh Hawley (R-Miss.) attempted in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.

The House legislation, introduced by Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), takes the process for objecting an electoral vote count a step further by requiring one-third of each body to sign off on an objection.

Both the Senate and House versions of the bill would clarify the vice president’s role in certifying votes as purely procedural by adding language that states they do not have the power to reject or dispute results–a response to Trump’s push to urge former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn votes.

Congress is also slated to consider the Department of Justice’s request for $34 million in additional funding to cover future costs of its January 6 investigation, which has netted charges against nearly 1,000 accused Capitol rioters.

The January 6 House select committee has less than two months to wrap up its investigation and issue a final report on the Capitol riots before a Republican-controlled House takes over in January and dismantles the committee (a scenario that’s still uncertain, but likely, as some midterm elections have yet to be finalized).

Surprising Fact

The election reform legislation has bipartisan support, with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is likely to continue presiding over the Republican minority in the upper chamber next year, announcing in September he backs the Senate version of the bill. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is running for the speakership if Republicans win the House, has also expressed tempered support for reforming the law, but was not among the nine Republicans who voted for the bill in September. “Just like any bill out there, in every Congress, we look at an old piece of law. So you can always modernize it and others,” he said in January, according to Politico. If the Senate approves a different version of the bill that passed the House, it would have to be sent back to the lower chamber, where it could be watered down or scrapped.

What To Watch For

Congress returns to Washington on Monday with a hefty list of priorities to address before the end of the year. Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate have announced plans to attempt to raise the U.S. debt limit to prevent a Republican-controlled House from leveraging the debt ceiling debate to negotiate other demands. If Congress fails to raise the U.S. borrowing limit before the government exceeds the threshold, which could happen sometime next year, the country could face a slew of economic consequences, including delays in Social Security payments, a downgraded credit rating and rising interest rates that would drive up inflation.


Congress will also need to agree on a new government funding package to avert a shutdown before the short-term stopgap bill passed in September expires on December 16. The package will include a defense authorization bill that lays out military spending priorities. Democratic lawmakers have also expressed plans to seek more COVID-19 funding and aid for Ukraine. Separate from the spending package, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said the chamber will vote on bill that would make the right to same-sex marriage a federal law. A similar version of the bill passed the House in July, but Senate negotiators, facing GOP opposition, put the legislation on hold in July until after the midterm elections.

Further Reading

Congress returns for lame duck with long to-do list (CNN)

Trump May Testify To Jan. 6 Committee As Deadline Looms, Liz Cheney Suggests (Forbes)

Pelosi Says Democrats Will Try To Raise Debt Ceiling This Year As House Control Remains Uncertain (Forbes)

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/saradorn/2022/11/14/why-the-lame-duck-session-will-be-crucial-for-january-6-investigation-and-election-legislation/