Senate GOP leaders seek to put an end to election disputes

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Senate Republican leaders want to avoid a messy debate and vote on the legitimacy of the election results when Congress meets Jan. 6 to count the votes of the Electoral College, which on Monday elected Joe Biden as president.

Senate GOP leaders have downplayed the chances of objecting to the vote by electors, but several House Republicans led by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) will move ahead with objections to state results. If just one GOP senator joins Brooks, each chamber will then meet separately to consider those objections.

Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), asked about the prospect of fellow Republicans objecting to the count said, “It’s not going anywhere.”

“It’s an opportunity for people to vent and protest, but in the end we have a clear way of determining our president. Those steps have been adhered to. They’ve been followed,” Thune added.

Asked what he would say to Republican senators thinking about endorsing a protest, which would force the Senate to debate and vote on an objection to a specific state’s electoral vote, Thune said it’s time for his party to accept the results of the election.

“I can’t tell them what them to do. I understand there are people who feel strongly about the outcome of this election, but in the end at some point you have to face the music,” he added.

“Once the Electoral College settles the issue today, then it’s time for everybody to move on,” he advised.

Under law, if one House member and one senator sign a written objection to a state’s electoral vote, the joint session for counting the electoral vote is suspended and each chamber meets separately to debate and vote on it. Both chambers must vote to agree to throw out a state’s electoral votes.

Senate Republican leaders predict any objection would be firmly rejected by a bipartisan vote.

Bringing it up for debate would only expose divisions in the party and possibly anger President Trump by putting lawmakers up for reelection in 2022 on record as opposed to his efforts to overturn the vote count in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

There is also the issue of the two Senate runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5, which will determine the Senate majority. If Democrats win both races, they will take the majority.

Supporting an objection to the vote count in Georgia, where state election officials certified Biden’s victory after repeated vote counts showed him with a 12,000-vote lead, would risk alienating moderate and swing voters in the state.

Opposing a House GOP-led objection, however, might turn off some of Trump’s most loyal supporters.

A silver lining for GOP leadership is that the Senate and House will not meet in a joint session to count the electoral votes until Jan. 6, a day after Georgia holds the two runoff races.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an adviser to Senate GOP leadership, said it would be a “mistake” for GOP lawmakers to object to the Electoral College vote and predicted the effort would be “futile.”

Asked about Brooks’s intention to dispute the electoral vote during a joint session of Congress next month, Cornyn said, “I think that’d be a bad mistake.”

“I think there comes a time when you have to realize that despite your best efforts you’ve been unsuccessful,” Cornyn added. “You’ve got to have a winner, and you’ve got to have a loser.”

Cornyn noted that former Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) briefly stopped the Electoral College count after the 2004 presidential election by filing a formal objection to the results in Ohio, the state that swung the election to former President George W. Bush.

Boxer’s objection, however, was soundly rejected by the Senate, which voted 74-1 to dismiss. Boxer was the only senator to vote in favor of her own objection.

“I know Barbara Boxer did it when she was here. I thought it was a bad idea then,” Cornyn said.

Cornyn, the former Senate majority whip, predicted any objection to a state’s electoral votes would be similarly rejected.

“I think it would be overwhelmingly similar,” he said. “I think we all have an idea who might entertain that idea. I just hope they realize that it would be futile and is unnecessary.”

The GOP senators who have most often been mentioned as possibly joining Brooks are Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a libertarian who has not been shy about bucking his colleagues, and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).

“We’re still looking at all the legal stuff that’s happening with the legal cases, and we’ll make our decision after we’ve seen all the legal challenges,” Paul told CNN last week.

Johnson also declined to rule out the possibility. “I would say it depends on what we found out. I need more information,” Johnson told reporters a week ago.

Brooks met last week with several GOP senators, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), to make his case.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who is viewed as a potential White House candidate in 2024, said Monday, “I’ll have more to say about that soon.”

Hawley added that he had not spoken to Brooks or anyone else on the House side about objecting.

Senate Republican leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have repeatedly said that disputes over the 2020 election should be handled by the courts, and federal judges have repeatedly rejected the arguments of Trump’s legal team.

One Republican senator who requested anonymity to comment on the political peril of having a Senate floor fight said Trump’s legal team has failed to lay out any compelling evidence of fraud. Trump’s legal team and its allies have lost 59 lawsuits since Election Day, according to Marc Elias, a prominent Democratic lawyer.

“The facts are what the facts are, and there’s no court to undo the outcome of the Electoral College after it votes,” the senator said.  

The GOP senator said that objecting to a state’s electoral vote after various legal challenges have failed would only hurt the party politically.

“My impression that those who believe there was voter fraud don’t see a route to do something further,” the lawmaker added. “There comes a point in time where we recognize this is what it is.”

Even some of Trump’s most loyal Senate allies are showing little appetite for continuing the battle over the election results into counting of electoral votes on the House floor next month.

“I have no reason to do that, no,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said about potentially supporting a House objection to the Electoral College tally.  

Jordain Carney contributed. 

Tags 2020 election Barbara Boxer Biden transition Donald Trump Electoral College Joe Biden John Cornyn John Thune Josh Hawley Lindsey Graham Mike Lee Mitch McConnell Mo Brooks Rand Paul Ron Johnson
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