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Hawley jams GOP with Electoral College fight

GOP Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyPence heckled with calls of 'traitor' at conservative conference Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior MORE’s (Mo.) decision to object to the Electoral College result is putting his fellow Republican senators in a tough political bind, fueling frustration within the caucus. 

Hawley is the first senator to announce support for a long-shot effort to challenge results in key states when Congress convenes a joint session on Wednesday, giving a band of House conservatives the backing they need to force a debate and vote challenging President-elect Joe BidenJoe Biden 64 percent of Iowans say 'time for someone else' to hold Grassley's Senate seat: poll Philadelphia shooting leaves 2 dead, injures toddler Ron Johnson booed at Juneteenth celebration in Wisconsin MORE’s win. 

It’s exactly the scenario GOP leaders hoped to avoid. Though conservatives can only delay — not change — the outcome of the election, the votes will provide potential primary fodder against 2022 incumbents and squeeze 2024 White House hopefuls. 

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“I don’t think it’s the Senate’s role to have a bunch of politicians in Washington overturn our presidential election,” said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump endorses Murkowski challenger Yellen: Disclosure of tax data to ProPublica a 'very serious situation' Sanders won't vote for bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE (R-S.D.), who said he would wait to hear the objections but that he would vote for the “Constitution and the rule of law.” 

Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerSenate confirms Radhika Fox to lead EPA's water office GOP senator introduces constitutional amendment to ban flag burning Trump dismisses climate change, calls on Biden to fire joint chiefs MORE (R-N.D.) — who is waiting to hear the arguments on Jan. 6 — predicted that the joint session is “going to be crazy” and framed, by some, as a question about whether or not a GOP lawmaker supports Trump. 

“That will be a common standard, put out by people who are very loyal to the president. ... I mean I hear it every single day,” Cramer added. 

Hawley is unapologetic about forcing his colleagues into a political box canyon. 

“I imagine that voters are going to want to know. Did you express their concerns? Did you take a stand when you could or not,” Hawley said, asked about his Senate GOP colleagues who are up for reelection in 2022. 

Hawley joined the Senate in 2019 and is already viewed as a potential 2024 White House contender. He says political ambitions are not driving his Jan. 6 strategy, but he is fundraising off his decision.

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Asked about the likelihood that his Electoral College decision will make him unpopular with his Republican colleagues, Hawley joked: “More than I already am?” 

Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseGOP senators applaud Biden for global vaccine donation plans Pence: Trump and I may never 'see eye to eye' on events of Jan. 6 White House: Biden will not appoint presidential Jan. 6 commission MORE (R-Neb.) didn’t directly mention Hawley or any other GOP senator, but described any Republican supporting the effort to challenge the election results as an “institutional arsonist.”

“Let’s be clear what is happening here: We have a bunch of ambitious politicians who think there’s a quick way to tap into the president’s populist base without doing any real, long-term damage. But they’re wrong – and this issue is bigger than anyone’s personal ambitions. Adults don’t point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government,” Sasse wrote in an open letter to constituents that was posted to Facebook. 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Biden struggles to detail post-withdrawal Afghanistan plans White House reiterates opposition to raising gas tax amid infrastructure debate MORE (R-Maine) also questioned why Hawley was backing an effort after the courts had dismissed dozens of election challenges from Trump’s legal team. 

“I do not think that he will prevail in his quest. And I question why he is doing it when the courts have unanimously thrown out the suits that the president’s team have filed for lack of credible evidence,” Collins said. “Senator Hawley is a smart attorney who clerked for the Supreme Court, so he clearly understands that. So I don’t understand.” 

Asked if she would vote against objections, Collins said “absolutely,” absent “some very unexpected revelation that I cannot imagine that would occur.” 

The issue came up during a Senate GOP caucus call on Thursday, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP increasingly balks at calling Jan. 6 an insurrection Black lawmakers warn against complacency after Juneteenth victory Graham quips key to working with Trump: We both 'like him' MORE (R-Ky.) pressed Hawley to explain his thinking.

Hawley was not on the call, which was first reported by Politico, but subsequently sent an email to GOP senators saying that many voters back in his state were “deeply angry and disillusioned” and that he was going to use his objection Jan. 6 to “force these issues to the fore.” 

“I strongly believe it is entirely appropriate for those of us concerned about the integrity of this last election to do the same,” Hawley wrote, pointing to objections in previous years from Democrats. 

GOP Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (Pa.), who is retiring at the end of 2022, spoke out against Hawley’s plan during the call, a spokesperson confirmed to The Hill, adding that Toomey “strongly disagrees” with Hawley. 

It’s the sort of GOP infighting that McConnell has typically tried to avoid, after intra-party battles cost them seats in previous election cycles. The 19 GOP senators who are up for reelection in two years now have to decide if they will vote to back Trump’s claims of voter fraud, which have been largely dismissed by courts, or vote to uphold the election results, and potentially open themselves up to a bloody primary fight. 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntExcellence Act will expand mental health and substance use treatment access to millions Overnight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision MORE (R-Mo.), who is up for reelection in 2022, has said he will not join in any objections, citing his role in the joint session. 

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“I expect there to be a vigorous debate regarding any state where the electors are challenged by at least one House member and one Senator. As one of the four Members of Congress required to participate in the joint session, I will not be joining in any objection,” Blunt said. 

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting GOP increasingly balks at calling Jan. 6 an insurrection 14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday MORE (R-Wis.), who has stuck closely to Trump and is up for reelection in 2022, has said he won’t object, but isn’t ruling out supporting an objection if it comes to a vote.  

“There's no reason for more people to object. All it takes is one. But I'll support his efforts and support the efforts of the conference to weigh out, as I did in the hearing, hear the issues. We have to, we can't just close our eyes,” Johnson said. 

If an objection has the support of a member of the House and a member of the Senate, the two chambers separate and each debate it for up to two hours. Both the House and Senate would then vote on whether or not to uphold the objection, which would require a majority in both chambers to be successful. 

Both incoming Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) and Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerLoeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run Herschel Walker skips Georgia's GOP convention Georgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock MORE (R-Ga.) are viewed as GOP senators who could potentially object, with Tuberville’s campaign manager saying he’s considering and Loeffler refusing to rule it out. Other 2024 White House hopefuls including Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Ted Cruz says critical race theory is as racist as 'Klansmen in white sheets' Pentagon pulling 'certain forces and capabilities,' including air defenses, from Middle East MORE (Texas), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior Rand Paul does not support a national minimum wage increase — and it's important to understand why Fauci to Chelsea Clinton: The 'phenomenal amount of hostility' I face is 'astounding' MORE (Ky.) and Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonThe Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Court fines baker 0 for refusing to make gender transition cake Nikki Haley warns Republicans on China: 'If they take Taiwan, it's all over' MORE (Ark.) have refused to rule out objecting. 

Hawley said that other offices had reached out in the wake of his announcement to let him know they were interested. 

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“I would think that there would be more, but there may not be, I don’t know. Too early to say,” Hawley said. 

GOP leaders view the high-profile fight as inevitable, though Thune said he didn’t know yet of another GOP senator who will object. 

“It’s a vote that, like I said, in the end we know how this comes out. Now we’ve got to deal with it. I don’t know there’s much there we can do other than have that debate, that discussion, have the vote, let people vote their consciousness and move on,” Thune said. 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBlack lawmakers warn against complacency after Juneteenth victory The Senate is where dreams go to die Federal government to observe Juneteenth holiday on Friday MORE (R-Texas), an advisor to McConnell, added “all it takes is one so it sounds like we're going to be here for awhile.” 

“There's a lot of things I don't want to happen that happen,” Cornyn added. “So you just got to learn to deal with it. And I think this is one of them.”