US Vice President Mike Pence has welcomed an effort by a group of Republican senators to raise objections when Congress meets to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory.
“The vice president welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on January 6,” Pence’s Chief of Staff Marc Short said in a statement on Saturday.
Nearly a dozen Republican senators and senators-elect, led by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, announced Saturday that they would vote against counting electoral votes in Congress next week.
They have proposed an election commission to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of election results in disputed states, despite no credible evidence suggesting widespread voter fraud.
Apart from Senator Cruz, the group includes Sens Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Steve Daines of Montana, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, and Mike Braun of Indiana, and Sens.-elect Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.
“A fair and credible audit—conducted expeditiously and completed well before January 20—would dramatically improve Americans' faith in our electoral process and would significantly enhance the legitimacy of whoever becomes our next President,” the group said in the statement.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that the November 3 election was rigged against him and mounted multiple legal challenges to overturn the results. Almost all those lawsuits have been dismissed.
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 College votes on January 6.
In the roughly two months since Election Day, Pence has stopped short of explicitly echoing Trump's allegations of voter fraud. The statement by his chief of staff on Saturday was the first extensive remark that said the vice president shared “the concerns of millions of Americans about voter fraud and irregularities.”
Pence had been sued by Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas and other House Republicans 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.
As president of the US Senate, Pence will have the responsibility of overseeing the session and declaring Biden the winner.
The strategy was first taken up by lawmakers in the House of Representatives, with at least 140 members throwing their weight behind the move.
On Wednesday, Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley became the first senator to announce plans to object to the results, a significant step since House Republicans needed the support of at least one senator to go along with the plan.
Hawley on Saturday tweeted that he was “glad to see more Senators joining the fight.”
However, some Republican senators have publicly denounced the strategy.
Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse was among the first senators who spoke 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 on Thursday. “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.”
Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, also described the move as an “egregious ploy” after Americans decided to elect Biden.
“The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic. The congressional power to reject electors is reserved for the most extreme and unusual circumstances. These are far from it. More Americans participated in this election than ever before, and they made their choice,” Romney said in a statement on Saturday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has told the Senate GOP conference to vote their conscience, while privately urging members not to join the effort.
All 50 states have certified the election result, some after recounts and legal appeals.
Election observers and political pundits believe the objection by Trump and his allies has virtually zero chance of succeeding in Congress.
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