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Electoral College action by Congress should be a formality, Biden team says

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Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Congress’s expected certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory should be treated as a “formality,” even as a growing number of congressional Republicans vow to challenge the process.

“This is merely a formality,” Psaki told reporters during a virtual press briefing. “It certainly should be treated as such by people who are covering it. And regardless of whatever antics anyone is up to on Jan. 6, President-elect Biden will be sworn in on the 20th.”

Psaki’s remarks came hours after Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) became the first senator to vow to challenge Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania and potentially other states on Jan. 6, when Congress meets to certify the results of the Electoral College vote. 

“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.

The rules for the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 require at least one member from each chamber to raise a formal objection to the election results in order to trigger a debate and vote on the objection. Dozens of House Republicans have already said they will challenge Biden’s victory in the November presidential elections.

Hawley’s pledge all but guarantees that members of the House and the Senate will be forced to debate the election results in at least one state before formalizing Biden’s status as president-elect. 

The anticipated debate over the election results will almost certainly have no effect on the outcome of the presidential race, although it will force members of both chambers to go on the record either affirming or rebuking Biden’s victory over Trump. 

Trump and his allies have repeatedly insisted that he won the 2020 presidential election, despite trailing Biden by 74 electoral votes. The president has also falsely claimed that widespread voter fraud and systemic irregularities had marred the results of vote counts in several key battleground states.

Psaki dismissed the looming certification challenges Wednesday, pointing to the roughly 81 million votes that Biden had received in the November election. She also noted that Biden himself presided over the congressional certification of President Trump’s Electoral College victory in 2017 when he was serving as vice president. 

“Just as a reminder, then Vice President Biden presided over the certification of Donald Trump’s win in 2017,” Psaki said. “Vice President [Richard] Nixon presided over the certification of John F. Kennedy’s win. Vice President [Al] Gore presided over the certification of George W. Bush’s win.”

Tags 2020 election congressional certification Donald Trump election challenge Electoral College Jen Psaki Joe Biden Josh Hawley
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