House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and HBO host Bill Maher discussed how the U.S. Constitution “needs fundamental change” Friday night, with both agreeing the Electoral College should be eliminated from the framework.
Schiff said that he supports a rewrite of the U.S. Constitution and amendments that would abolish the Electoral College, but he cautioned that today’s Republican Party would likely hijack the process. The California Democratic congressman said he would prefer to use “discrete amendments” to the Constitution that would overturn controversial money-in-politics Supreme Court rulings like Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Maher said any changes to the Founding Fathers’ framework is difficult because many Americans believe the constitution was “literally delivered by Jesus.”
Both Schiff and Maher said they would be in favor of getting rid of the Electoral College system, which today would require two-thirds of the House, two-thirds of the Senate and three-fourth of all states to agree upon. Operating within a governmental system and national populace as divided as America in 2020, Schiff said, this is very unlikely to happen soon.
“I think we’re better off focusing on discrete amendments to the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and make sure that we can have elections untampered or uninfluenced by excessive expenditures and dark money. And I would favor doing away with the Electoral College system,” Schiff told the Real Time with Bill Maher host Friday.
A 2019 study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found Republican candidates for president can expect to win 65 percent of future elections because the Electoral College system is set up to favor their party’s voting base. The study analyzed why “inversions”—when the popular vote winner still loses the U.S. presidential election—have happened twice since 2000. And both times, the losers were Democratic candidates, Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016. The study concluded that completely abolishing the Electoral College and its 270 votes is the better solution, rather than policy changes which would chip away at its power-check on the popular vote.
Maher highlighted remarks made by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who in 2012 said, “I would not look to the U.S. Constitution [for guidance] if I were drafting a Constitution in the year 2012.” She noted that Canada and South Africa have better Constitutions to follow because they were drafted far more recently.
“[The Founders] were great back then, but they were not Nostradamus, they couldn’t see a lot of s**t that was going to happen,” Maher said. “This is a tough sell in a lot of America, where there’s people who believe that the Constitution was literally delivered by Jesus.”
Schiff, however, turned the suggestion of rewriting and completely overhauling the Constitution back on Maher, noting that senate Republicans such as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Utah’s Mike Lee would likely be the people tasked with such an effort.
“This is the problem, I don’t have any confidence frankly that we could improve on the word product of the framers with the crowd we have today. So I like it in theory,” Schiff added.
Maher, in comments later touted Saturday morning by the co-hosts of Fox & Friends, concluded the segment by saying “super high taxes” have led to an exodus of residents from California in recent years.
Newsweek reached out to Schiff’s California offices for additional remarks Saturday morning.