[Jan. 31] Perpetually raging former president Donald Trump keeps pushing for Vice President Kamala Harris to have the unilateral power to determine the 2024 election outcome.

That is, of course, if you actually follow Trump’s logic, such as it is. Then again, logic ranks up there with common decency and respect for democratic norms among the virtues Trump most spectacularly lacks.

Among other radically irresponsible things Trump said in various forums last weekend, one Tweet on vice presidential power actually could hurt his own cause if his advice were followed. As Republican strategist Evan Siegfried noted, Trump’s position could give Harris the power to keep Trump from returning to office.

Trump’s Tweet continued to beat the dead horse of a claim that his own vice president, Mike Pence, somehow had authority to reject duly certified presidential electors and thus engineer Trump’s re-election in 2020. Constitutionally and statutorily, the claim is poppycock. The reason so many lawmakers, scholars, and analysts want to change the Electoral Count Act which governs the vote-certification process is not to make illegal that which right now is legal, but to clarify and modernize the process while using less convoluted language.

Even by the poorly written ECA, the vice president has absolutely no decision-making authority. Its exact language says that when he receives the duly certified electoral votes, he “shall thereupon announce the state of the vote,” and if “objections” come from members of Congress, then the objections “shall be submitted” to each legislative chamber for debate and determination. Nowhere in the law does the vice president have any function other than a purely ministerial one.

By now, nothing Pence or Trump or anyone else does could undo the election results that made Joe Biden president. Yet if Trump has his way and the vice president is somehow afforded the unilateral power to reject the electoral votes sent to Congress by state officials, then Harris would be the one who could make use of that power in the 2024 elections. Whoever the Republican nominee is, Trump included, would thus be at Harris’ mercy…. [To see the full text of a different version of this column, please follow this link.]


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