Republicans desperate to avoid floor fight over Electoral College vote
National Republicans are desperate to avoid a floor fight in Congress over the certification of the Electoral College vote next month, believing it would be horrible politics to continue waging what most recognize to be a hopeless battle to overturn the outcome of the election.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has intervened, asking his members not to join Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) or any other House members looking to object to the results on Jan. 6, when Congress meets to certify the Electoral College count.
President Trump is waging a pressure campaign to get senators to revolt. Incoming Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who will be sworn in Jan. 3, has said he’ll join the floor fight and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has said he believes the election was “stolen” from Trump, is always a wild card.
Republican strategists are hoping McConnell can quash the insurgency, believing the debate over Trump’s refusal to accept the outcome of the 2020 election is tearing the party apart ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff elections in Georgia that will determine the balance of power in the Senate.
They say it’s bad for the GOP’s efforts to win back swing suburban voters if the party is associated with erratic flamethrowers, such as pro-Trump attorneys Sidney Powell, Lin Wood and Rudy Giuliani.
And after an election in which the GOP became more diverse, Republican strategists are furious over the harm they say is being done with Black voters, as the Trump campaign seeks to have the vote totals thrown out in Atlanta, Milwaukee, Detroit and elsewhere.
“The outcome of any floor fight will be the same outcome as the Electoral College vote and all of those court cases the campaign has already lost, so it’s smarter to look forward to 2022 and the Georgia runoff and other races we can win, rather than races that we can’t,” said one well-connected Republican.
“The court losses, the publicity losses we sustain when our top attorney has ink running down the side of his face and has become the laughingstock of American legal circles, those things are piling up to hurt the president’s image,” the person added.
A floor revolt by a handful of Republicans on Jan. 6 is not likely to go anywhere.
The Democratic-controlled House will not recognize the effort to throw out the results in key battleground states President-elect Joe Biden won. Many GOP senators, including conservative allies of the president such as Sens. Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Mike Braun (Ind.), say they will not join the effort.
Brooks needs only one partner in the Senate to object to the results, and he may have that in Paul or Tuberville. Even if their objections are approved by the Senate, it would kick the results back to the states, where the governors would in all likelihood recertify the results.
Still, the handful of GOP hard-liners insist the election was stolen from Trump through widespread fraud, despite the campaign’s dozens of losses in the courts.
Brooks said Friday on Newsmax that it is the “absolute right” for Republicans to fight to decertify the election results in states where he says the election systems were “badly flawed.”
“I know how some of these Congress critters and Senate critters try to avoid being courageous when it comes to what they call difficult votes,” Brooks said. “But in my mind, that’s what we were elected to do. I can only control my own vote, how I am going to conduct myself concerning this voter fraud and election theft.”
The lead-up to the floor fight threatens to consume GOP efforts to win the runoff elections in Georgia, where the Senate majority will be determined on Jan. 5, one day before Congress meets to certify the election.
Georgia has become ground zero for the efforts by Trump and his allies to discredit the election results. The president lost in Georgia by only about 10,000 votes, making Biden the first Democratic presidential candidate to win there since 1992.
The president and his allies have railed against Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), accusing them of not doing enough to investigate allegations of fraud.
The pro-Trump attorneys Powell and Wood have alleged that the voting machines were rigged to steal votes from Trump and that GOP officials took kickbacks from Democrats, although they have notably not provided any evidence of those claims in court.
They’ve also called on Georgians not to vote in the special election, saying the results can’t be trusted. Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn became the latest figure in Trump World to raise questions about the validity of the January runoff, calling it a “fake election” in an interview with Newsmax on Friday.
That’s infuriated Republicans that are desperate to elect a GOP majority in the Senate to act as a check on Biden.
“Some of these people are actively working against Republicans,” said Seth Weathers, who served as Trump’s state director for Georgia in 2016. “I’m a hardcore Republican but we just can’t embrace some of these nutjobs or conspiracy theories and expect to build a party.”
The president’s refusal to recognize Biden as the winner has been the final straw for some Republicans.
Outgoing Rep. Paul Mitchell (Mich.) announced he was leaving the party, saying “it is unacceptable for political candidates to treat our election system as though we are a third-world nation and incite distrust of something so basic as the sanctity of our vote.”
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who joined the anti-Trump group The Lincoln Project during the general election, will remain a Republican.
But Steele warned that efforts to overturn the results would have long-term consequences for the party, particularly in its efforts to be more appealing to Black voters.
Trump has done better with Black voters than past Republican presidents. But his campaign’s efforts to question the vote in urban Democratic strongholds has angered Black Republicans like Steele.
“It really puts the party in an untenable position,” Steele said. “For anyone in the Senate to double down on this tomfoolery is really something McConnell should be concerned about.”
“Honestly, it’s frustrating, embarrassing and amazing to me that Republicans still don’t know how to win. We picked up 11 seats in the House and became more diverse and might keep the Senate,” he said. “But instead of building off that, you might have senators openly questioning the results. It tells you a lot about how they see Black voters. The fact they’re trying to get the vote thrown out in some of these places, that’s not lost on Black voters.”
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