Senate GOP brushes off long-shot attempt to fight Biden win

Senate Republicans are shooting down a long shot effort to challenge the Electoral College vote early next year. 

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, grabbed headlines when he announced that he would challenge the votes when Congress officially certifies President-elect Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6.

But GOP senators are dismissing the effort, even as President Trump publicly praised Brooks.

GOP Sen. John Cornyn (Texas) said the January meeting of Congress is “really a formality” after the Electoral College votes in mid-December, a date many Republicans have pointed to as when they will formally acknowledge Biden’s victory.

“Nobody likes to lose but we have to respect the judgment of the American people, the voters, so I don’t support, I don’t endorse, I don’t really like just making a show just to make a show,” Cornyn said.

Asked if he saw the eleventh-hour attempt to overturn the results of the election going anywhere, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who has linked himself closely to Trump, replied, “I do not.”

“I think that Dec. 14 is a critical date,” Braun said, adding that by Jan. 6 “if there’s not enough other stuff in place I doubt that would be a maneuver that would seem to work.”

The push to try to overturn the results of the election in Congress early next year comes as Trump and some of his allies have offered baseless claims that the election was stolen or “rigged” against him, even as Republicans defeated Democratic challengers in key Senate races and unexpectedly made a net gain of seats in the House. 

Brooks referred to the election as the “worst election theft in the history of the United States,” even as election experts have dismissed claims of widespread voter fraud.

Trump’s legal team has launched dozens of legal challenges largely without success and several battleground states are certifying Biden’s win over Trump. But Brooks argued that Congress was a better place to litigate the outcome of the election because “it is extremely difficult in a court of law to determine how many illegal votes were cast and who they were cast for.”

The House and Senate are scheduled to meet in a joint session on Jan. 6 to count the electoral votes and formally declare a result, with the vice president presiding.

Any lawmaker may offer an objection to the votes from one or more states. The objections must be made in writing and “shall state clearly and concisely, and without argument, the ground thereof” of the objection.

To pause the counting of the votes, an objection has to come from at least one member of the House and at least one member of the Senate. Some Democratic lawmakers tried to object in 2001 but didn’t have the support of a senator. Similarly, Democrats objected in 2017 but were unable to find a counterpart in the upper chamber and the objections were turned back by then-Vice President Biden.

Brooks says he is actively seeking a senator to join his efforts but disclosed to USA Today on Thursday that he had not “solicited any senators or anyone at the White House at this point.”

No GOP senator has publicly offered him support so far. Several members of the Senate Republican caucus are viewed as potential 2024 contenders. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), approached by reporters in the Capitol, didn’t respond to a question about if he would object, while Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) didn’t explicitly rule it out. Cruz told ABC News that lawmakers needed to “wait for the pending litigation to be concluded,” and Hawley said he was unfamiliar with the process.

“You have to have senators join them, and we saw House members object four years ago, and no senator stood up and objected,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership.

If Brooks is able to find an ally in the Senate, the joint session would be suspended and the chambers would meet separately to debate and vote on the objection.

Underscoring the uphill climb — Brooks has acknowledged his move may largely be symbolic — lawmakers have only been able to successfully force a debate twice since 1887, according to the Congressional Research Service

The first time was in 1969 on counting an elector from North Carolina who switched their vote and the second time in 2005 in relation to the Ohio electoral votes. In both instances the objections were rejected and Congress counted the electoral votes as cast.

Even as many GOP senators have refused to acknowledge Biden as the president-elect, they’ve also largely pointed to Dec. 14 as the date that will symbolize the end of the election fight. Trump has said he will leave the White House but in a sign that he could lean into the fight and turn it into a loyalty test, he gave Brooks a shoutout on Twitter. 

Even if a GOP senator stood up to object, Brooks’s effort will still be a long shot because he would need a majority of the House and the narrowly divided Senate to vote to support his challenge, something that congressional experts and top GOP senators acknowledge is not going to happen.

“The likelihood of having a sizable number who would vote against a slate of electors making a difference in the outcome I think is extremely unlikely,” the American Enterprise Institute’s Norman Ornstein told reporters on a call. “It’s just a question of how long it gets dragged out.”

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) also dismissed the possibility that symbolic drama would turn into a realistic challenge to Biden’s victory.

“I can’t imagine that that would ever happen,” Thune said when asked if GOP leadership would actively work against someone standing up to object.

Pressed if he was saying a GOP senator wouldn’t object, Thune acknowledged that someone theoretically could.

“But I doubt that goes anywhere,” he said. “This is a process that’s well established.” 

Tags Donald Trump Electoral College Electoral votes Joe Biden John Cornyn John Thune Josh Hawley Mike Braun Mo Brooks Rand Paul Roy Blunt Ted Cruz
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