At least 140 Republicans in the US House of Representatives are expected to object to the Electoral College vote next week when Congress meets to certify President-elect Joe Biden's victory, two lawmakers have told CNN.
President Donald Trump, who has refused to concede the November election to Biden, has been pushing congressional Republicans to go along with a long-shot effort to vote against the counting of the electoral votes when the Electoral College comes before Congress on January 6.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that the election was rigged against him and mounted multiple legal challenges to overturn the results. A majority of those lawsuits have been dismissed.
Dozens of judges, election officials, governors, the Justice Department and the Supreme Court have said there have been no credible evidence of widespread voter fraud that would have impacted the results. However, a handful of congressional Republicans have rallied behind Trump in his drive to overturn the election and vowed to challenge the count of the electoral votes in Congress.
In order to force a debate and a vote on their objection to a state’s results, House members need the support of at least one senator.
Republican Josh Hawley of Missouri on Wednesday became the first senator to say he would mount an objection, a move that will force lawmakers in both chambers to vote on whether to affirm Biden as the Electoral College winner and the next president.
“I cannot vote to certify the electoral college results on January 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws," Hawley said in a statement.
“And I cannot vote to certify without pointing out the unprecedented effort of mega corporations, including Facebook and Twitter, to interfere in this election, in support of Joe Biden. At the very least, Congress should investigate allegations of voter fraud and adopt measures to secure the integrity of our elections. But Congress has so far failed to act,” he added.
Other senators, including the incoming ones, could still joint the bid -- something Majority Leader Mitch McConnel has privately advised Republicans against. Many Republicans either back the president’s allegations of voter fraud or fear provoking his wrath.
The strategy has been met with criticism from some on Capitol Hill, including Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse, who minced no words in speaking out against the complicity of his colleagues in a “dangerous ploy” to overturn the election.
“The president and his allies are playing with fire,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “They have been asking -- first the courts, then state legislatures, now the Congress -- to overturn the results of a presidential election. They have unsuccessfully called on judges and are now calling on federal officeholders to invalidate millions and millions of votes.”
The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal also laid into President Trump’s “embarrassing Electoral College hustle,” saying the move will only be used by congressional Democrats to “excoriate Mr. Trump a final time on his way out the door.”
Trump and his minions in Congress have meanwhile turned the pressure on Vice President Mike Pence, arguing that he has the power to invalidate the electors.
Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, along with other House Republicans, sued Pence after he refused to join their effort. The lawsuit, filed earlier this week, seeks to expand the vice president’s power in the upcoming meeting of Congress in a manner that would allow him to subvert Biden’s electoral win.
Pence is set to oversee Congress when it officially counts the electoral votes next week and the suit argues he has the constitutional authority to ignore votes cast for Biden in states where Republicans have disputed the results.
In a Thursday brief, however, Pence asked Texas-based US District Judge Jeremy Kernodle, a Trump appointee, to toss Gohmert’s lawsuit, saying he is not a proper defendant to the suit.
Election observers and political pundits believe the latest scramble by Trump and his allies has virtually zero chance of succeeding in Congress.
“Mr. Trump is putting his loyal VP in a terrible spot, and what do Republicans think would happen if Mr. Pence pulled the trigger, Mr. Biden was denied 270 electoral votes, and the House chose Mr. Trump as President? Riots in the streets would be the least of it,” the Wall Street Journal's board said in its editorial.
The board added that the move “tarnishes” Trump’s legacy and “undermines any designs he has had on running in 2024.”
Biden defeated Trump in both the popular and electoral votes by wide margins. Earlier in December, states certified their Electoral College results, giving Biden 306 votes to Trump’s 232. The Democrat also bested the president by more than 7 million popular votes.