Five GOP senators to watch in next month’s Electoral College fight

Greg Nash/Bonnie Cash

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) is hunting for a Senate Republican to take part in his guaranteed-to-fail effort to overthrow the presidential election results on Jan. 6. 

The fight is emerging as a division point between Senate GOP leadership and President Trump.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is privately warning his caucus against objecting because it would force a high-profile vote that would not change the outcome, while Trump has publicly endorsed the effort and met with a group of conservative firebrands to plot strategy. 

There’s no chance Republicans backing Trump will be able to block the results when Congress formally counts the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, with Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) predicting it will “go down like a shot dog” in the upper chamber. 

In order for Congress to contest a state’s election results, majorities in both chambers would have to vote to uphold the objection, something that has never happened. 

But Brooks needs only one GOP senator to side with him to force a debate and vote on any objection. If he’s successful, it would be the third time Congress has had to debate an objection since 1887, according to the Congressional Research Service. 

Here are the five Senate Republicans to watch in the Electoral College fight. 

Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville (Ala.)

Tuberville doesn’t join the Senate until Jan. 3, but he’s already causing headaches for leadership. 

Tuberville — who aligned himself closely with Trump while defeating former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the primary and then unseating Democratic Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.) — is viewed as the GOP senator most likely to join Brooks’s effort. 

Tuberville suggested in a video, posted online by progressive activist Lauren Windsor, that he would support challenging the results, saying, “You’ve been reading about it in the House. We’re going to have to do it in the Senate.” 

Tuberville’s campaign manager has also said he’s “very seriously” considering objecting to the Electoral College results next month. 

Trump and his allies have seized on Tuberville’s potential objection, putting him in a high-profile political bind. 

Trump disclosed in a radio interview with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani that he had spoken with Tuberville. And amid reports that Tuberville could help challenge the results, Trump weighed in on Twitter, calling him “a great champion and man of courage” and saying that “more Republican Senators should follow his lead.” 

But he’s likely to face efforts from Senate GOP leaders to dissuade him going forward or to at least get a read on what he’s thinking. A senior GOP senator said they expected McConnell to call Tuberville. 

“I would hope he wouldn’t do that. I think it’s time … to move on,” Thune said about Tuberville. “The fact of the matter is that’s been litigated over and over. … It’s time to be done with this.” 

Sen. Kelly Loeffler (Ga.)

Loeffler, who was appointed to the Senate in December 2019, is under close scrutiny as a potential objector as she sticks closely to Trump heading into a Jan. 5 Georgia runoff election. 

Loeffler, who doesn’t speak with reporters in the Capitol, hasn’t acknowledged President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and has refused to say whether she will object to the Electoral College results on Jan. 6. 

Asked in a recent campaign stop, Loeffler demurred, saying that “there’s a lot to play out here in Georgia.”

“We have many investigations underway right now. We’re in the courts looking at this, and we need to continue to let this process play out. My focus today is on Jan 5. We have to win that election,” Loeffler added. 

Loeffler is in a unique political position within the Senate Republican caucus. Unlike her colleagues, who are guaranteed to have political careers that last longer than Trump’s White House tenure, Loeffler’s future is in flux. 

She needs Trump’s supporters to turn out in large numbers in order for her to win next month in Georgia, where she’s battling for the final two years of retired Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R) term. She and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), who is also facing a runoff election on Jan. 5, have already thrown their support behind lawsuits trying to challenge the way the state handles absentee ballots. 

But Perdue, unlike Loeffler, will lose his Senate seat until the Georgia election results are determined, taking him off the board for the Electoral College fight.

Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.)

Paul is being watched closely as a potential ally for Brooks and his House colleagues. 

The libertarian-leaning Republican senator is one of Trump’s closest allies in the Senate and, unlike many of his GOP colleagues, he has been willing to echo the president’s claims of election fraud even as court after court has turned them aside for lack of evidence.

“The fraud happened. The election in many ways was stolen, and the only way it will be fixed is by in the future reinforcing the laws,” Paul said during a Senate hearing this month with Christopher Krebs, the president’s former cybersecurity chief. 

Election experts have dismissed claims of widespread fraud, as have state officials, including a number of Republicans.

Paul is known for being a thorn in leadership’s side — he slow-walked a bipartisan defense bill earlier this month and is trying to throw sand into the procedural gears of a potential veto override. He was not on the caucus call where McConnell warned Republicans against objecting next month. 

Asked about joining in efforts to overturn the election results on Jan. 6, Paul told reporters, “I haven’t thought about it or made any plans to do anything.” 

Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.)

Hawley is facing dueling considerations: He’s linked himself closely to Trump, aligning with him in a fight over renaming Confederate-named military bases and pushing the president to back a second round of stimulus payments as part of a mammoth year-end coronavirus relief deal. 

But he’s also viewed as a potential 2024 presidential contender after skyrocketing up the party ladder to the Senate in 2019. Hawley has been trying to build his own brand as a conservative populist, but he could also need to stick closely to the president, who has flirted with his own 2024 bid and retains a tight grip on the party’s base. 

Hawley isn’t the only up-and-comer in this category. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), also considered close to Trump, has also not said if he will challenge the results on Jan. 6. His spokeswoman didn’t respond to a question about the issue. 

Hawley has not yet said if he will challenge the election results when Congress counts the Electoral College vote next month and said late last week that he was still undecided. 

Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas)

Cruz — like Hawley and Cotton, a potential 2024 contender — has refused to rule out challenging the election results on Jan. 6. 

Cruz, who came in second in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, had a combative relationship with Trump during the 2016 election, including refusing to endorse him despite speaking at the GOP convention. 

But Cruz has thrown his support behind Trump’s election fights, even as fellow Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn has acknowledged Biden as the president-elect and said Congress has “no reason” to overturn the results. 

Cruz pushed the Supreme Court to take up a case, led by Texas, challenging Biden’s win in four key states and accepted an offer from Trump to argue the case if the court had taken it up — which it didn’t, handing the president a high-profile slap. 

Brooks has briefed the Senate Republican Steering Committee, of which Cruz is a member, on his plan as he’s tried to win over crucial supporters. 

“There are still multiple pending lawsuits,” Cruz said on Monday when asked if he would challenge the results next month. “We need to let the legal process play out.”

Tags 2020 election David Perdue Donald Trump doug jones Electoral College Jeff Sessions Joe Biden John Cornyn John Thune Johnny Isakson Josh Hawley Kelly Loeffler Mitch McConnell Mo Brooks Rand Paul Rudy Giuliani Ted Cruz Tom Cotton

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