Cotton breaks with conservative colleagues who will oppose electoral vote count

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a possible contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, broke with his rivals Sunday night by announcing he will not object to the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6.

Cotton warned that an effort spearheaded by Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), two other 2024 White House hopefuls, to challenge the electoral votes of several swing states that went for President-elect Joe Biden could “establish unwise precedents.”

While Cotton said he is concerned about how the 2020 presidential election was carried out, such as changes to election law allowing mail-in ballots arriving after Election Day to be counted, he argued it is up to the states and the courts — not Congress — to handle election laws.

“The Founders entrusted our elections chiefly to the states — not Congress. They entrusted the election of our president to the people, acting through the Electoral College — not Congress. And they entrusted the adjudication of election disputes to the courts — not Congress,” he said in a statement released Sunday evening. 

“Under the Constitution and federal law, Congress’s power is limited to counting electoral votes submitted by the state,” he said. 

Cotton warned that if Congress threw out the electoral votes of states such as Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where President Trump has alleged without evidence widespread election fraud, it would “take away the power to choose the president from the people.” 

He said it would imperil the Electoral College and the voice it gives to smaller states like Arkansas and help Democrats “achieve their longstanding goal of eliminating the Electoral College.” 

He said if Congress overrides the Electoral College’s vote, it would “take another big step toward federalizing election law.”

“Thus, I will not oppose the counting of certified electoral votes on Jan. 6,” he said. 

Cotton said he is disappointed in the election results and grateful for what Trump accomplished during his four years in office but argued that “objecting to certified electoral votes won’t give him a second term — it will only embolden those Democrats who want to erode further our system of constitutional government.”

Cotton is the second key Trump ally and conservative Republican senator to break with the effort to delay the counting of electoral votes, which is scheduled to take place during a joint session of Congress Wednesday.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) earlier in the day said an effort led by Cruz and supported by 10 other Republican senators to set up a special commission to audit the results of the 2020 election was a “political dodge.”

“Proposing a commission at this late date — which has zero chance of becoming reality — is not effectively fighting for President Trump. It appears to be more of a political dodge than an effective remedy,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) have warned Republican colleagues that objecting to states’ electoral votes, which will force members of the Senate to vote on the matter, would be a political mistake.

Both chambers would have to vote throw out a state’s electoral votes, and the chances of that happening are nil with Democrats in control of the House. 

Updated on Jan. 4 at 6:18 a.m.

Tags Donald Trump Joe Biden John Thune Josh Hawley Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell Ted Cruz Tom Cotton

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