House in near-unanimous vote affirms peaceful transfer of power
The House adopted a resolution on Tuesday to affirm the chamber’s support for a peaceful transfer of power after President Trump last week declined to commit to it if he loses reelection.
Lawmakers adopted the measure in a bipartisan 397-5 vote, with all of the votes in opposition coming from Republicans.
Tuesday’s vote followed one last week on a virtually identical measure in the Senate, which lawmakers in that chamber passed unanimously.
Passage of the resolution in the Democratic-led House also came less than an hour before Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden were set to face off in the first of three presidential debates.
The five Republicans who voted against the resolution were Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Clay Higgins (La.), Steve King (Iowa) and Thomas Massie (Ky.).
Neither resolution taken up by the House nor the Senate explicitly mentioned Trump saying last week that he would have to “see what happens” when asked if he would commit to a peaceful transition of power in the event he lost to Biden. Trump also further tried, without evidence, to sow doubt in the reliability of voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation,” Trump said at a press conference.
The House version of the resolution, authored by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), states that the chamber “reaffirms its commitment to the orderly and peaceful transfer of power called for in the Constitution of the United States” and “intends that there should be no disruptions by the president or any person in power to overturn the will of the people of the United States.”
Swalwell framed the resolution as an opportunity for lawmakers to reaffirm a fundamental part of American democracy.
“As the United States of America, the federal government has always had a peaceful transition of power. And it is a collective responsibility of this body to ensure that continues,” Swalwell said during House floor debate.
“Everyone in America knows that this is what makes us American. Everyone, that is, except President Trump,” Swalwell said.
Not a single GOP lawmaker spoke in support of the measure during House floor debate.
Instead, the Republicans who appeared on the floor dismissed the resolution as unnecessary and a partisan shot at Trump, while stressing that they do support peaceful transitions of power.
They further pointed to public comments in August from Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, who urged Biden not to concede to Trump “under any circumstances” because she thinks the election results are “going to drag out” due to ballots cast by mail.
“This resolution is a way for Democrats to attack the president and disguise the fact that they will refuse to accept the election results unless they win,” said Gaetz, a top Trump ally. “Professional loser Hillary Clinton has told Joe Biden that he should not concede, and I’m quoting, ‘under any circumstances.’”
Swalwell stressed that the language in the resolution was the same as what the Senate passed unanimously just days earlier.
“I know my colleagues on the other side have their own suspicions about what the motive is behind this and want to project onto it something that’s not in the language. But this was passed by 100 senators last week,” Swalwell said.
Top GOP lawmakers distanced themselves from Trump’s comments last week and emphasized that they support peaceful transitions of power, but did not rebuke the president directly.
Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the second highest-ranking Senate Republican, told reporters last week that he believed Republicans would stand up to Trump if he refused to accept the election results.
“Republicans believe in the rule of law. We believe in the Constitution and that’s what dictates what happens … so yes,” Thune said.
Last week wasn’t the first time that Trump has sowed doubt in whether he would refuse to concede if he lost reelection.
When asked during an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News in July whether he would accept the election results, Trump said he would “have to see” and dismissed polls that showed him trailing Biden as “fake.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said last Thursday that Trump will “accept the result of a free and fair election.”
Hours later, Trump declined to walk back his previous remarks from the day before declining to commit to a peaceful transition of power.
“We want to make sure the election is honest, and I’m not sure that it can be. I don’t know that it can be, with this whole situation, unsolicited ballots,” Trump said.