Senate GOP opposition grows to Electoral College challenge
The Senate Republicans opposed to certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s win are heading toward a hefty defeat on Wednesday. The only remaining question is this: how badly do they lose? Just 11 GOP senators have signaled support for separate efforts led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). That makes 13 supporters — and many more have come out swinging against it.
“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,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who announced his decision Tuesday.
Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kans.) also said Tuesday that they would not object to the election results. In a statement, Moran said that doing so "would risk undermining our democracy — which is built upon the rule of law and separation of powers" and that "no victory for one’s cause today can be worth what we would lose tomorrow." Moran is up for re-election in 2022.
At least 24 GOP senators will vote to certify Biden’s election win, according to a series of interviews and statements. As of Tuesday afternoon, 14 Republican senators had not said what they would do publicly. With every Senate Democrat also sure to reject the challenge to Biden’s victory, President Donald Trump’s pressure campaign will easily fail even as it succeeds in splitting the GOP.
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said on MSNBC Tuesday that reaching his conclusion to endorse Biden’s win in key swing states was a “brutal” episode because a majority of his constituents were urging him to oppose the certification.
“It wasn’t an easy emotional decision,” Cramer said, arguing he would never want to see a situation where senators from other states were trying to disenfranchise North Dakotans. That in mind, he added: “I’m quite comfortable with it.”
Still, not everyone is showing their cards. A number of senior Republican senators, from Chuck Grassley of Iowa to Marco Rubio of Florida to Todd Young of Indiana, are declining to make any comment about their intentions before Wednesday. That day is likely to be filled with intra-GOP clashes, as the objectors fight on the floor with members of their own party who refuse to stymie Biden’s formal path to the presidency.
Hawley has said he plans to challenge Pennsylvania’s electoral votes, while the group of senators led by Cruz is still undecided on how many states to challenge and how many votes to force their colleagues into. Cruz will at least challenge Arizona with the goal of creating a commission to complete a 10-day review of the election, according to a source familiar with the matter. But the odds of establishing such a commission are exceedingly unlikely.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) is likely to challenge Georgia. And Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) will object to all three states, according to a source familiar with his thinking.
Every state that receives an objection from one House member and one senator requires a two-hour floor debate followed by a vote on the challenge. That means at least three lengthy debates — and votes — will occur in the Senate and House.
Trump praised the group of objectors on Tuesday, tweeting: “They will fight the ridiculous Electoral College Certification of Biden. How do you certify numbers that have now proven to be wrong and, in many cases fraudulent!” As for those on the other side, Trump is calling them the “surrender caucus.”
Hawley again denied he was trying to overturn the election on Monday night, telling Fox News he is merely exercising his rights to force a debate.
“Congress is directed under the 12th Amendment to count the electoral votes,” Hawley said. “There is a right to object, there’s a right to be heard.”
But the challenge is bitterly dividing the caucus. Some Senate Republicans who could eventually seek the presidency have also condemned the effort to block certification of Biden’s victory.
“Congress would take away the power to choose the president from the people and place it in the hands of whichever party controls Congress,” wrote Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in an op-ed posted Tuesday. “This action essentially would end our tradition of democratic presidential elections, empowering politicians and party bosses in Washington.”
The split in the party is not falling along clear fault lines. Both establishment-aligned Republicans like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins and pro-Trump conservatives like Cotton and Mike Lee have resisted Trump’s push.
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned his conference that Wednesday’s maneuver would be a “terrible” vote, he is not actively whipping against it. He’s going to come down against the effort personally but is encouraging members to follow their conscience.
Wednesday’s vote will amount to Senate Republicans’ most significant rejection of Trump, who continues to make false claims about widespread voter fraud in the election he lost. While the president this week attacked Republicans who rejected his efforts, some of his strongest supporters argue that breaking with the president this time should not erase their ardent support over the past four years.
“I support President Trump and have worked with the president to advance policies important for North Dakota and our nation,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said. But “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.”
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is telling associates he had no idea his Justice Department seized phone records of two top Democratic congressional critics of then-President Donald Trump. In the hours since The New York Times broke the news on Thursday that prosecutors subpoenaed Apple metadata from Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA), former Attorney General Sessions has privately told people that he wasn’t aware of, nor was he briefed on, the reported data seizures while he led the Trump DOJ. This week’s revelations were a surprise to him, according to a source familiar with the matter, and another person close to Sessions.
The US justice department’s internal watchdog launched an investigation on Friday after revelations that former president Donald Trump’s administration secretly seized phone data from at least two House Democrats as part of an aggressive leaks inquiry related to the Russia investigation into Trump’s conduct.
Donald Trump called Joe Biden a “mental retard” during the 2020 election, a new book says, but was reluctant to attack him too strongly for fear the Democrats would replace him with Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama. Biden went on to beat Trump by more than 7m in the popular vote and by 306-232 in the electoral college, a result Trump deemed a landslide when it was in his favor against Clinton in 2016.
The deadly insurrection at the US Capitol was “planned in plain sight” but intelligence failures left police officers exposed to a violent mob of Trump supporters, a Senate investigation has found. The Capitol police intelligence division had been gathering online data since December about plots to storm the building on 6 January, including messages such as: “Bring guns. It’s now or never.” But a combination of bad communications, poor planning, faulty equipment and lack of leadership meant the warnings went unheeded, allowing the insurrectionists to overrun the Capitol and disrupt certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. Five people died.