A growing number of Republican lawmakers are joining President Donald Trump’s extraordinary effort to overturn the election, pledging to reject the results when Congress meets next week to count the Electoral College votes and certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
What You Need To Know
- President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated January 20 after winning the Electoral College vote 306-232
- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Saturday announced a coalition of 11 senators who have joined President Trump’s effort to subvert the will of American voters
- The effort will not overturn the results of the election. For an objection to be sustained, both houses must agree to it by a simple majority; it is unlikely the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives will vote to do so
- In 2004, a House member and a Senator challenged then-President George W. Bush's win in Ohio; both chambers overwhelmingly voted to reject the challenge
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas on Saturday announced a coalition of 11 senators and senators-elect who have been enlisted for Trump’s effort to subvert the will of American voters.
Joining Cruz are the following Senators:
- Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)
- Sen. James Langford (R-OK)
- Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT)
- Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA)
- Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
- Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN)
- Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
- Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS)
- Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN)
- Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL)
This follows the declaration from Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who was the first to buck Senate leadership by saying he would join with House Republicans in objecting to the state tallies during Wednesday’s joint session of Congress.
Trump’s extraordinary refusal to accept his defeat is tearing the party apart as Republicans are forced to make consequential choices that will set the contours of the post-Trump era. Hawley and Cruz are both among potential 2024 presidential contenders.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who congratulated Biden on Tuesday, Dec. 15, following the Electoral College vote, had urged his party not to try to overturn what nonpartisan election officials have concluded was a free and fair vote.
The group vowed to vote against certain state electors on Wednesday unless Congress appoints an electoral commission to immediately conduct an audit of the election results. They are zeroing in on the states where Trump has raised unfounded claims of voter fraud. Congress is unlikely to agree to their demand.
“We intend to vote on January 6 to reject the electors from disputed states as not ‘regularly given’ and ‘lawfully certified’ (the statutory requisite), unless and until that emergency 10-day audit is completed,” they wrote in the statement.
“We do not take this action lightly,” they said.
The group presented no new evidence of election problems.
Sen. Johnson is insisting that the extraordinary effort by congressional Republicans to challenge Joe Biden’s presidential victory is not intended to thwart the democratic process but “to protect it.”
In a interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the Wisconsin senator pointed to an “unsustainable state of affairs” where he claimed that many people in the country don’t accept the election as legitimate. He contends that more transparency is needed to “restore confidence” in results that states and the Electoral College have certified.
Johnson isn’t offering new evidence of voting problems. And he does acknowledge that Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, found no evidence of widespread election fraud. Multiple lawsuits filed by Trump’s legal team have been repeatedly dismissed, by the Supreme Court and by Trump-appointed judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence.
When Johnson insisted that “tens of millions of people” believe the presidential election was “stolen,” moderator Chuck Todd suggested that Johnson “look in the mirror” as to why that is. Todd cut off Johnson’s unsubstantiated assertions.
“You don’t get to make these allegations that haven’t been proven true," Todd said to Johnson.
Biden’s transition spokesman, Mike Gwin, dismissed the effort as a “stunt” that won’t change the fact that Biden will be sworn in Jan. 20.
Trump, the first president to lose a reelection bid in almost 30 years, has attributed his defeat to widespread voter fraud, despite the consensus of nonpartisan election officials and even Trump’s attorney general that there was none. Of the roughly 50 lawsuits the president and his allies have filed challenging election results, nearly all have been dismissed or dropped. He’s also lost twice at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The days ahead are expected to do little to change the outcome.
Biden is set to be inaugurated January 20 after winning the Electoral College vote 306-232.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the top Democrat on the panel overseeing the Electoral College count and one-time rival of Biden for the 2020 Democratic nomination, said the Republican effort to create a federal commission “to supersede state certifications” is wrong.
“It is undemocratic. It is un-American. And fortunately it will be unsuccessful. In the end, democracy will prevail,” she said in a statement.
“Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20th, and no publicity stunt will change that," Klobuchar wrote.
A bipartisan group of Senators, including four Republicans, issued a statement on Sunday slamming the group of lawmakers planning on objecting to the results of the election.
“The 2020 election is over," the statement reads. "All challenges through recounts and appeals have been exhausted. At this point, further attempts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 Presidential election are contrary to the clearly expressed will of the American people and only serve to undermine Americans’ confidence in the already determined election results."
The bipartisan group is as follows:
- Susan Collins (R-ME)
- Angus King (I-ME)
- Joe Manchin (D-WV)
- Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
- Mark Warner (D-VA)
- Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
- Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
- Mitt Romney (R-UT)
- Maggie Hassan (D-NH)
- Dick Durbin (D-IL)
"The voters have spoken, and Congress must now fulfill its responsibility to certify the election results. In two weeks, we will begin working with our colleagues and the new Administration on bipartisan, common sense solutions to the enormous challenges facing our country," the statement concludes. "It is time to move forward.”
Earlier, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said in a statement that she will vote to affirm the election and urged colleagues in both parties to join her in “maintaining confidence” in elections “so that we ensure we have the continued trust of the American people.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) warned such challenges are a “dangerous ploy” threatening the nation’s civic norms.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) called it an "egregious ploy" that "may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic" in a statement.
"The congressional power to reject electors is reserved for the most extreme and unusual circumstances. These are far from it," Romney wrote. "More Americans participated in this election than ever before, and they made their choice. 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."
"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," Romney added. "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," he said. "Congress, not voters in the respective states, would choose our presidents."
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) who has acknowledged Biden’s victory and defended his state’s elections systems as valid and accurate, spoke up on the call, objecting to those challenging Pennsylvania’s results and making clear he disagrees with Hawley’s plan to contest the result, his office said in a statement.
On Twitter Saturday, Toomey wrote that, "a fundamental, defining feature of a democratic republic is the right of the people to elect their own leaders."
"The senators justify their intent by observing that there have been many allegations of fraud. But allegations of fraud by a losing campaign cannot justify overturning an election," Toomey wrote. "They fail to acknowledge that these allegations have been adjudicated in courtrooms across America and were found to be unsupported by evidence."
"President Trump’s own Attorney General, Bill Barr, stated ‘we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,'" Toomey added. "I acknowledge that this past election, like all elections, had irregularities. But the evidence is overwhelming that Joe Biden won this election. His narrow victory in Pennsylvania is easily explained by the decline in suburban support for President Trump and the president’s slightly smaller victory margins in most rural counties."
'I voted for President Trump and endorsed him for re-election," Toomey concluded. "But, on Wednesday, I intend to vigorously defend our form of government by opposing this effort to disenfranchise millions of voters in my state and others."
Sen. Lindsey Graham called the effort by the group a “dodge” that doesn’t go far enough in helping President Donald Trump.
Graham said in a statement Sunday that Cruz has a “high bar” to show there was evidence of problems with the election. The South Carolina senator also said Cruz’s proposal has “zero chance of becoming reality.”
Graham, a top Trump ally, said that approach “is not effectively fighting for President Trump. It appears to be more of a political dodge than an effective remedy.”
Caught in the middle is Vice President Mike Pence, who faces growing pressure from Trump’s allies over his ceremonial role in presiding over the session Wednesday. His chief of staff, Marc Short, said in a statement Saturday that Pence “welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections.”
Several Republicans have indicated they are under pressure from constituents back home to show they are fighting for Trump in his baseless campaign to stay in office.
Sen. John Thune, the second-ranking Republican, told reporters at the Capitol that leadership was allowing senators to “vote their conscience.”
Thune’s remarks as the GOP whip in charge of rounding up votes show that Republican leadership is not putting its muscle behind Trump’s demands, but allowing senators to choose their course. He noted the gravity of questioning the election outcome.
“This is an issue that’s incredibly consequential, incredibly rare historically and very precedent-setting,” he said. “This is a big vote.”
Pence will be carefully watched as he presides over what is typically a routine vote count in Congress but is now heading toward a prolonged showdown that could extend into Wednesday night, depending on how many challenges are mounted.
The latest failed effort to upend the election came from Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and a group of Arizona electors, who filed suit to try to force Pence to step outside mere ceremony and shape the outcome of the vote. U.S. District Judge Jeremy Kernodle, a Trump appointee, dismissed their suit late Friday. In another blow, Gohmert’s appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was rejected Saturday night, the panel of judges agreeing with Kernodle’s ruling that the plaintiffs had no standing to bring the suit.
To ward off a dramatic unraveling, McConnell convened a conference call with Republican senators Thursday specifically to address the coming joint session and logistics of tallying the vote, according to several Republicans granted anonymity to discuss the private call.
The Republican leader pointedly called on Hawley to answer questions about his challenge to Biden’s victory, according to two of the Republicans.
But there was no response because Hawley was a no-show, the Republicans said.
Hawley’s office said he sent an email afterward to his colleagues explaining his views. In the email, Hawley said constituents back home are “angry and disillusioned” with the outcome of the election.
McConnell had previously warned GOP senators not to participate in raising objections, saying it would be a terrible vote for colleagues. In essence, lawmakers would be forced to choose between the will of the outgoing president and that of the voters.
The last time the results were challenged by both a Senator and a member of the House was in 2004, when Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones challenged George W. Bush's win in Ohio. Both chambers voted overwhelmingly to reject the objection.
In 2017, then-Vice President Joe Biden shut down 9 objections from members of the House challenging President Trump's win. Because none of the challenges from the House members were joined by a Senator, Biden said there was “no debate" and the objections “cannot be entertained."
For an objection to be sustained, both houses must agree to it by a simple majority; it is unlikely the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives will vote to do so, and several high-profile Republicans have slammed the effort.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.