contested election

Futile Ploy to Overturn Election in Congress Divides GOP

Rage against the dying of Trump’s fight. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

President Trump’s epic ongoing failure to subvert America’s democracy and overturn his unambiguous loss to President-elect Joe Biden gained a whiff of pointless steam on Saturday when 11 Republican senators and senators-elect announced that they will vote against the counting of Electoral College votes during a joint session of Congress next week. Missouri senator (and 2024 hopeful) Josh Hawley had already said that he would object to the pro forma count of electoral votes and certification of Biden’s victory on January 6 — which means at least 12 GOP senators and what may be more than 140 House Republicans will now oppose, for the history books, next week’s inevitable congressional certification of Biden’s victory. Vice-President Mike Pence came out in support of the ploy on Saturday, as did House minority leader Kevin McCarthy.

Meanwhile, other Republicans have been speaking out against their colleagues’ machinations, including many members of Congress, as well as former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who released a statement opposing the plan on Sunday, observing, “It is difficult to conceive of a more anti-democratic and anti-conservative act.”

The 11 senators, led by Texas’ Ted Cruz (who will also likely run for president, again, in 2024), said in a statement on Saturday that they would support the objection to the count and called for a ten-day audit of election results in “disputed states,” asserting that Congress was the “lone constitutional power remaining to consider and force resolution” of the allegations of “serious voter fraud.” Those false allegations, endlessly promoted by the president since before he even lost, aren’t just baseless, but have failed to gain even the slightest traction in countless courts since the election and were dismissed by Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, before he resigned last month. Nonetheless, Trump has pressured Republican lawmakers across the nation to demonstrate their loyalty to him and support his attempted coup. And that’s now exactly what many of them plan to do — futility, precedent, and democratic principles be damned.

Joining Cruz in the pledge were senators Marsha Blackburn (TN), Mike Braun (IN), Steve Daines (MT), Ron Johnson (WI), John Kennedy (LA), James Lankford (OK), and senators-elect Bill Hagerty (TN), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Roger Marshall (KS), and Tommy Tuberville (AL).

Later Saturday, Mike Pence’s chief of staff announced that Pence, too, “shares the concerns of millions of Americans about voter fraud and irregularities in the last election” and “welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on January 6th.” Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, said on Saturday night that he welcomed the proposed audit, and CNN reported Sunday that he has participated in two conference calls regarding the effort in recent days and is “part of the team,” according to Representative Mo Brooks, who is spearheading the House GOP’s push to block the count.

Hawley, whose Senate website says he “is recognized as one of the nation’s leading constitutional lawyers,” tweeted on Saturday that he is “glad to see more senators joining the fight” and that he hopes “many more will listen to their constituents and act.” Politico reports that both Hawley and Cruz have been fundraising off their role in the plot.

At best, the objecting Republicans aren’t so much showing fealty to Trump as they are performing it for his supporters, many of whom have bought into the president and his allies’ false claims about the election being “rigged.” The 11 senators’ statement claimed that their proposed audit of the state-certified election returns would “dramatically improve Americans’ faith in our electoral process” and “significantly enhance the legitimacy of whoever becomes our next president,” but that’s not a realistic outcome, either. They also claimed that were not actually trying to thwart Biden’s victory and acknowledged that they “fully expect most if not all Democrats, and perhaps more than a few Republicans, to vote otherwise.”

As CNN pointed out on Saturday, “Not one of the Republican officeholders objecting to Biden’s victory have objected to their own wins on the same day on the same ballots using the same election systems.”

Several GOP senators now publicly oppose the scheme. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for his part, has unsuccessfully tried to dissuade his colleagues from objecting to the count and forcing the vote — which would put vulnerable Republicans up for reelection in 2022 in the politically unenviable position of either voting against Trump or democracy. McConnell even went so far as to reportedly tell Senate Republicans on Friday that his vote to confirm Biden’s victory “will be the most consequential I have ever cast.” Senator Pat Toomey said Saturday that Hawley and Cruz’s effort to “overturn the results” of the election “directly undermines the right [of the people] to elect their own leaders.” Mitt Romney said in a statement that Cruz et al.’s “egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic.” Lisa Murkowski responded, “I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and that is what I will do January 6.” On Sunday night, Tom Cotton released a statement in which he vowed not to join the effort, saying that “objecting to certified electoral votes won’t give [Trump] a second term.”

Murkowski, Romney, Maine’s Susan Collins, and Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy joined with six Senate Democrats to publish a letter on Sunday calling on Congress to certify Biden’s victory without delay, arguing that the efforts to prevent that “are contrary to the clearly expressed will of the American people and only serve to undermine Americans’ confidence in the already determined election results.” Also on Sunday, House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney sent her Republican colleagues a memo warning that the attempt to overturn the election results could set an “exceptionally dangerous precedent.” And seven other House Republicans released their own statement noting Congress didn’t have the legal right to overrule states’ authority on the matter.

Amid the pushback, Ted Cruz tried to pull the fire alarm over his own fire on Sunday morning:

No matter the drama on Wednesday, there is absolutely no chance that the effort to block the certification of Biden’s win (and offer a symbolic hand to the flailing Trump) will gain majority support in either the Senate or House. What it will accomplish is helping to cement, in the minds of the president and many Republican voters, the plainly false notion that Donald J. Trump is not a loser. The consequences beyond that, for the GOP or for future American elections, remain to be seen.

Futile Ploy to Overturn Election in Congress Divides GOP