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As Congress prepares to certify the results of the Electoral College on Wednesday, a group of Republican senators have declared their intention to object to accepting President-elect Joe Biden as the winner.
Their objection, while unlikely to prevent Congress from accepting Biden as the victor and the next president of the United States, will trigger hours of debate in Congress about the merits of allegations of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election and will culminate in a vote that will divide the Republican Conference.
So far, 38 of 51 Republican senators who will have a vote on Wednesday have gone on the record about where they stand. Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) will not participate in the Electoral College certification Wednesday because his term ended Sunday. If he wins re-election, the results of his election will not be certified before Congress votes. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, (R-Ga.) on the other hand is running in a special election to complete the term of retired Sen. Jonny Isakson (R-Ga.), so she will have a vote even though her election is on the same day as Perdue’s.
Those in favor of objecting
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was the first to declare his intention to object to the Electoral College vote, calling out the state of Pennsylvania for, in his words, failing to “follow their own state election laws” and accusing “mega corporations” including Facebook and Twitter of interfering in the election.
Later, a group of 11 Republican senators led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced they would object as well. They issued a joint statement on Saturday citing widespread allegations of voter fraud as reason to appoint an Electoral Commission to investigate the 2020 election and conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the returns.
“A fair and credible audit-conducted expeditiously and completed well before January 20-would dramatically improve Americans’ faith in our electoral process and would significantly enhance the legitimacy of whoever becomes our next President. We owe that to the People,” the senators said.
“These are matters worthy of the Congress, and entrusted to us to defend. We do not take this action lightly. We are acting not to thwart the democratic process, but rather to protect it. And every one of us should act together to ensure that the election was lawfully conducted under the Constitution and to do everything we can to restore faith in our Democracy.”
The senators who joined this statement include Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.).
Also, Loeffler, who is running for re-election in a run-off against Democratic candidate, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, that will be decided Tuesday, released a statement Monday lending her support to the objection effort.
“The American people deserve a platform in Congress, permitted under the Constitution, to have election issues presented so that they can be addressed,” Loeffler said. “That’s why, on January 6th, I will vote to give President Trump and the American people the fair hearing they deserve and support the objection to the Electoral College certification process.”
That makes 13 Republican senators so far who will object to the Electoral College results from battleground states disputed by President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Those opposed to objecting
They are met with opposition from at least 25 of their colleagues, several of which have raised constitutional concerns about whether lawmakers have the ability to disregard election results certified by the states at all.
Four Republican senators including Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) joined Democrats in a statement calling for Congress to certify Biden as the winner of the election.
“The voters have spoken, and Congress must now fulfill its responsibility to certify the election results,” the senators said collectively.
Romney issued an additional statement on Jan. 3 condemning Cruz and the co-signers of his statement for their “egregious ploy to reject electors,” accusing them of dangerously threatening the republic.
“President Trump’s lawyers made their case before scores of courts; in every instance, they failed. The Justice Department found no evidence of irregularity sufficient to overturn the election. The Presidential Voter Fraud Commission disbanded without finding such evidence,” Romney said.
My fellow Senator Ted Cruz and the co-signers of his statement argue that rejection of electors or an election audit directed by Congress would restore trust in the election. Nonsense. This argument ignores the widely perceived reality that Congress is an overwhelmingly partisan body; the American people wisely place greater trust in the federal courts where judges serve for life. Members of Congress who would substitute their own partisan judgement for that of the courts do not enhance public trust, they imperil it.
Were Congress to actually reject state electors, partisans would inevitably demand the same any time their candidate had lost. Congress, not voters in the respective states, would choose our presidents.
Adding to this ill-conceived endeavor by some in Congress is the President’s call for his supporters to come to the Capitol on the day when this matter is to be debated and decided. This has the predictable potential to lead to disruption, and worse.
I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world. Has ambition so eclipsed principle?
The following are statements from other GOP senators who will oppose the effort to object to the Electoral College vote, as collected by the Washington Post:
Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.): “Not one of the lawsuits filed found evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities that would have changed the outcome of the election. Similarly, not a single state’s outcome changed as a result of requested recounts. Objecting to certified electoral votes submitted by the states will have no impact on the result of the election either. We cannot erode the ideals that generations of Americans have fought to protect simply because we do not like the outcome of the election.”
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.): “I am a conservative Republican. Therefore, I must strictly adhere to the United States Constitution. The Constitution clearly limits the role of Congress with respect to presidential elections to the counting of electoral votes that have been certified by the states. The states, consistent with the principles of federalism and a limited national government, possess the sole authority to determine and submit their electors. To vote to reject these state-certified electoral votes would be to act outside the bounds of the Constitution, which I will not do.”
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.): “As I read the Constitution, there is no constitutionally viable means for the Congress to overturn an election wherein the states have certified and sent their Electors. Some of my colleagues believe they have found a path, and while our opinions differ, I do not doubt their good intentions to take steps towards stamping out voter fraud. Importantly, I disagree with their method both in principle and in practice. For their theory to work, Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats would have to elect Donald Trump president rather than Joe Biden. That it is not going to happen, not today or any other day.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): “I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and that is what I will do January 6 — just as I strive to do every day as I serve the people of Alaska. I will vote to affirm the 2020 presidential election. The courts and state legislatures have all honored their duty to hear legal allegations and have found nothing to warrant overturning the results. I urge my colleagues from both parties to recognize this and to join me in maintaining confidence in the Electoral College and our elections so that we ensure we have the continues trust of the American people.”
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.): “At the end of the day, it’s time to move on. We need the electoral college to do its work. It’s an integral part of our constitution.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.): Cotton said that he shares “the concerns of many Arkansans about irregularities in the presidential election” and will therefore support “a commission to study the last election and propose reforms to protect the integrity of our elections.” However, he opposes an effort by Congress to overturn the results of the election.
“… the Founders entrusted our elections chiefly to the states—not Congress. They entrusted the election of our president to the people, acting through the Electoral College—not Congress. And they entrusted the adjudication of election disputes to the courts—not Congress. Under the Constitution and federal law, Congress’s power is limited to counting electoral votes submitted by the states.
“If Congress purported to overturn the results of the Electoral College, it would not only exceed that power, but also establish unwise precedents. …
“Thus, I will not oppose the counting of certified electoral votes on January 6.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): “Many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on Jan. 20. The electoral college has spoken. So today, I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden. The president-elect is no stranger to the Senate. He’s devoted himself to public service for many years.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine): “It’s not an effort that I’m going to support. And right now, I’m going to go get sworn in to my fifth term, making history as the first Republican woman senator ever to be elected to a fifth term, and making Maine history by being the first Maine senator since popular election to be elected to a fifth term. So I’m gonna enjoy that for a bit first.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.): “We’ve now gone through the constitutional process and the electors have voted, so there’s a president-elect.”
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.): “I think the overwhelming weight of the evidence is that Joe Biden defeated my candidate, Donald Trump, and I have to live with it.”
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.): Responding to a question on whether he would join Hawley’s effort to object, Burr said, “no.”
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.): “While I share the concerns of those who plan to object, the Founding Fathers did not design a system where the federal legislative branch could reject a state’s certified choice for President in favor of their own … I do not have the authority to overturn the will of other states on behalf of North Dakota, nor do other members have the ability to overturn the will of my state. …
“In light of these concerns, I will not object to the Electoral College votes when they are counted, and — unless overwhelmingly persuasive evidence is presented before the Senate when we debate the objections – I will not vote to reject the results.”
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.): “The people of North Dakota do not want Congress to determine their vote, and we should not set the precedent by doing it for other states. Therefore, I do not plan to object.”
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.): “I look forward to working with President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to keep our nation safe, update our infrastructure, and provide opportunities to families,” she said in a letter to a constituent.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.): “We have a bunch of ambitious politicians who think there’s a quick way to tap into the president’s populist base without doing any real, long-term damage. But they’re wrong – and this issue is bigger than anyone’s personal ambitions. Adults don’t point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio): “The orderly transfer of power is a hallmark of our democracy, and although I supported President Trump, the Electoral College vote today makes clear that Joe Biden is now President-Elect.”
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.): “My job on Wednesday is clear, and there are only two things I am permitted to do under the Constitution: ensure the electors are properly certified and count the electoral votes, even when I disagree with the outcome. To challenge a state’s certification, given how specific the Constitution is, would be a violation of my oath of office — that is not something I am willing to do and is not something Oklahomans would want me to do.”
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.): “I intend to vigorously defend our form of government by opposing this effort to disenfranchise millions of voters in my state and others.”
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.): “Vice President Biden is the president-elect based on the electoral count.”
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.): On how the vote on the objection will turn out: “It’s going down like a shot dog.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas): “There’s good constitutional and other legal grounds to say: You had your day in court, 60 different lawsuits in state courts, you had a chance to appeal those to the Supreme Court, and as I read the law once a state certifies its electoral vote it’s conclusive.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah): “… with respect to presidential elections, there is no authority for Congress to make value judgments in the abstract regarding any state’s election laws or the manner in which they have been implemented.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.): “Several of my congressional colleagues have made clear their plans to object to counting certified electoral votes from certain states. I will oppose their effort because the will of voters in each state—not political considerations or the individual preferences of senators and representatives—must determine the winner of the presidential election.”
And the rest
There are 13 Republican senators who have not definitively stated their position ahead of Wednesday
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have each released statements indicating they will listen to the debate and cast their votes after considering what those objecting have to say. According to the Washington Post, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) acknowledged that Biden is the “presumptive president-elect” but did not comment on the effort to object to the Electoral College results.
The remaining 10 Republicans, Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Mike Crapo (R-Id.), Jim Risch (R-Id.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) have not made their intentions clear.