Republican lawmakers on Wednesday began a doomed ― and dangerous ― effort to object to President-elect Joe Biden’s win and overturn the election in favor of soon-to-be-former President Donald Trump.
GOP members in a joint session objected to certifying electoral results from Arizona, which Biden won. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) objected to certification of the electoral votes from his state, to Republican applause. He was quickly joined by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Because of the objections, the House and Senate must separately debate and vote on each objection. An objection only succeeds if both chambers vote in support of it, a prospect that is sure to fail.
But many Republicans, based on pleas from Trump himself, are still pushing for Congress to overturn the election results. At least a dozen senators, led by Cruz and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, and more than half of the House Republican caucus are expected to join the effort.
They failed at the ballot box, then in court, where multiple challenges to election results were thrown out. They insisted there was evidence of mass voter fraud but never produced it. They lost, and will lose again when Congress ultimately certifies the Electoral College vote for Biden ― presided over by, awkwardly enough, Vice President Mike Pence.
After House and Senate lawmakers went to their separate chambers to debate on Arizona’s electoral votes, the entire process was upended by an insurrection. Trump backers swarmed the Capitol, breaching security barriers and then the building itself, where they wreaked havoc for hours before police finally escorted them out. One woman was killed in the Capitol, although police have provided few details.
In spite of the violence, the certification process will continue later on Wednesday, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). When it does, Congress will finish debate and hold its own votes on Arizona’s electoral votes. Then it will move onto other states in alphabetical order.
Republicans had indicated earlier that they would object to the electoral votes from several other states where Trump lost. Now they’ll have to decide whether their protest is worth it after witnessing the violence fomented by claims of election fraud.
No matter what Republicans do, Trump will no longer be president come noon on Jan. 20. But he will leave behind Republican lawmakers who have cast aside voters and a divided country where many Republicans have listened to those who told them not to trust the process.
“We will never give up. We will never concede,” Trump said at a “Stop the Steal” rally Wednesday morning. “It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.”
“The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken. They’ve all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever.”
Trump has spent recent weeks urging Republicans to reject the results of the presidential election. The goal, as Trump has made clear, is to keep him in office — not, as some Republicans have claimed, to make sure potential voter fraud gets investigated.
Trump has even said that Pence, who has a procedural role in the electoral vote process as president of the Senate, should block certification of the election. Pence does not have such authority.
“I hope Mike is going to do the right thing,” Trump said at the rally.
What the president called “the right thing” isn’t going to happen. Shortly before the certification process began, Pence released a letter to Congress stating that he does not believe a vice president has “unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted.”
Not all Republicans went along with Trump’s gambit, which many considered a distraction. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor urging colleagues to “honor the people’s decision.”
He said he would vote against the objection to Arizona’s votes, calling it the most important vote of his career.
“The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken,” McConnell said. “They’ve all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever.”
Republicans close to McConnell blamed Trump’s focus on reversing his own election result for the GOP’s apparent loss of the Senate majority, which was decided by runoff elections in Georgia this week. Democrat Raphael Warnock ousted Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who supports the effort to overturn the election; Democrat Jon Ossoff is leading in his race against David Perdue, who is running to retake a seat he held last Congress.
Earlier in the day, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) had sharp words for Trump and his efforts to overturn the election. Trump supporters, many of them white nationalist Proud Boys, have harassed Romney and other Republicans, urging them to reject results.
“President Trump has disrespected the American voters, has dishonored the election system and has disgraced the office of the presidency,” Romney told HuffPost on Wednesday.
Igor Bobic contributed reporting.
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