Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday urged GOP senators not to object to Congress’ formal certification of the Electoral College vote next month prior to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
An objection would force a “terrible vote” on Senate Republicans by putting them in a position of having to oppose President Donald Trump, McConnell said on a private conference call with his members, according to Politico.
Some allies of the president are hoping the last-ditch effort might reverse the election results, even as dozens of lawsuits from the Trump campaign have failed to prove allegations of voter fraud in court. On Monday, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) called on fellow Republicans to join him in trying to bar what he called Biden’s “illegitimate” victory.
The U.S. Constitution requires that the electoral votes for president and vice president be ratified on the sixth day of January during a formal ceremony in a joint session of Congress. The president of the Senate ― currently Vice President Mike Pence ― presides over the counting of those votes, a routine tradition that is normally carried out with little controversy.
Lawmakers can object to any state’s electoral votes so long as the objection has the support of at least one member of the House and one member of the Senate. If that requirement is satisfied, the two chambers must then separately debate the objection for two hours and vote whether to discount the electoral votes in question. Both chambers would have to agree to reject a state’s electoral votes.
The House is controlled by Democrats, who would almost certainly protect Biden’s victory if an objection were raised. But several of Trump’s top allies on the Hill might still provide the senatorial objector needed to force a debate, including Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Ted Cruz of Texas.
Senior Republicans believe the latest tactic would fail while unnecessarily provoking Trump, who has continued to baselessly spread false allegations of widespread voting fraud.
“I think we all have an idea of who might entertain that idea. I just hope they realize that it would be futile,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters on Monday.
Johnson said he currently has no plans to object to the tabulation. “Something would have to surface that would call into question the legitimacy of the election,” he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Several House Democrats tried to object to electoral votes cast for Trump in January 2017, but they were rebuffed by Biden, then the sitting vice president, after they failed to persuade a senator to join them in the effort.
“It’s over,” Biden said at the time, repeatedly gaveling down Democratic objections to the delight of Republicans in the chamber, who gave him a standing ovation.
After the 2004 presidential election, then-Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) joined then-Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) in lodging an objection to Ohio’s 20 electoral votes for President George W. Bush. The Senate ultimately slapped down the effort 74-1. Boxer was the only senator who voted to throw out the state’s electoral votes.
McConnell joined several other top Republicans in acknowledging Biden’s 2020 victory on Tuesday, 42 days after the Nov. 3 election.
“Our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on January the 20th. The Electoral College has spoken. So today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden,” McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor, following the Electoral College’s affirmation on Monday.
Biden said he called McConnell afterward to thank him.
“I called to thank him for the congratulations ― told him although we disagree on a lot of things, there are things we can work together on. ... We agreed we’d get together sooner than later,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, the home of his campaign and transition headquarters.