Hawley, Cruz face rising anger, possible censure

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Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are facing a possible vote on a censure resolution in the Senate as Democrats and some Republicans blame them for the mob that attacked the Capitol last week.

Several Democratic senators have called on Hawley and Cruz to resign and Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) have called for them to be expelled if they don’t step down voluntarily.

Democratic aides say there is a discussion about censuring the two lawmakers for helping to incite protesters who temporarily halted the counting of the Electoral College last week after overrunning Capitol Police.

Some Republican colleagues are also not happy about Hawley and Cruz, though GOP criticism of the pair tends to be softer than the barbs thrown toward President Trump, who is even more widely blamed for the debacle.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), seated behind the Missouri junior senator, appeared to be glaring at Hawley on Wednesday night after the Senate resumed work following the riot. Hawley at the time was explaining why he was joining challenges to the Electoral College vote.

As the Senate was evacuated earlier, Romney reportedly was heard yelling “this is what you’ve gotten, guys.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) told NPR that Hawley “was doing something that was really dumbass” in challenging the Electoral College votes.

Asked during an interview on Fox News’s “The Journal Editorial Report” whether Senate GOP colleagues such as Hawley and Cruz bear any responsibility for the storming of the Capitol last week, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said there’s “a lot of soul searching that’s going to have to happen.”

“There are people who perpetuated really the big lie, that Donald Trump won in a landslide and it’s all been stolen from him,” he said. “That’s not true and we know that’s not true.

“Then there [is] compounding of dishonesties like propagating the idea that somehow Wednesday’s proceedings could result in a different outcome and therefore it was reasonable to try to pressure lawmakers to do this. That was never going to happen.

“To willfully mislead people about that, that’s a real problem,” he added.

Spokespersons for Hawley and Cruz did not respond specifically Monday to calls from Democratic lawmakers for the GOP lawmakers to be expelled, censured or stripped of their committee assignments.

Cruz in an interview with a KTRK, a Texas television station, accused Democrats of trying to tear him down for political reasons.

“No one should be surprised to see Democrats playing politics and to see them try to attack strong conservative leaders. That’s something Democrats have done for a long time. I do think it’s really cynical for them to be trying to take advantage of what was a tragic event,” he said.

Hawley said last week: “I will never apologize for giving voice to the millions of Missourians and Americans who have concerns about the integrity of our elections.”

Hawley won election to his first term and Cruz won reelection to his second term in 2018, which means they won’t face voters again until 2024.

A Democratic senator would need to sponsor a resolution to censure or expel Hawley or Cruz for there to be a vote on either option. The possibility of a vote on expulsion is seen as much less likely.

“There were a couple of senators trying to figure that out,” said a Senate Democratic aide. “More and more Democratic caucus members are willing to vote yes on a censure resolution.”

The Senate would censure the senators by adopting by majority vote a resolution to formally state disapproval of their conduct. An expulsion would require a two-thirds majority vote.

Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution allows each chamber of Congress to determine its rules of proceedings and punish its members for disorderly behavior.

Hawley was the first GOP senator to announce he would back challenges to the Electoral College. It was a significant move because while House Republicans already planned to object to several states, they needed a GOP senator to join them to trigger a debate and votes in both chambers.

Days later, Cruz led a group of 11 GOP senators saying they would also object. They circulated a letter calling for the creation of a special commission to conduct a 10-day emergency audit of the election results in states where the Trump campaign alleged widespread fraud — claims that were thrown out by Republican- and Democratic-appointed judges.

The efforts were always going to be futile. There were not enough votes to throw out the results of fairly held elections in Arizona, Pennsylvania and other states in either the House or Senate given opposition from Democrats and most Republicans — particularly in the Senate.

But the fact that the senators objected has Democrats arguing their actions helped lead to the terror at the Capitol on Wednesday as thousands of people who apparently believed conspiracy theories about the election broke through police lines and marauded through the halls, seemingly searching for lawmakers to harm.

“Both @HawleyMo and @SenTedCruz have betrayed their oaths of office and abetted a violent insurrection on our democracy,” Brown tweeted Saturday. “I am calling for their immediate resignations. If they do not resign, the Senate must expel them.” 

It’s not the first time there have been objections to the results. Democrats in 2004 objected to the results of President George W. Bush’s reelection victory over then-Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), delaying the Electoral College vote count on the floor of a joint session of Congress and triggering a debate.

But Kerry was not contesting the results of the election at the time and had already conceded his defeat. The situation was much more volatile this year given Trump’s refusal to concede his loss, and the backing he had from many Republican lawmakers.

“The violent mob that attacked the Capitol was made up of people who don’t accept democracy, and want to take this country by use of force,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the third-ranking member of the Democratic leadership, said in a statement last week.

“Any Senator who stands up and supports the power of force over the power of democracy has broken their oath of office. Senators Hawley and Cruz should resign,” she said.

Hawley and Cruz were further isolated in the Senate GOP after the mob attack, as several GOP senators dropped their plans to object.

Before Wednesday, Hawley and Cruz were seen as contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 and their support of House Republican objections to Arizona’s and Pennsylvania’s electoral slates were viewed as an effort to ingratiate themselves with Trump supporters.

But the tactic backfired, said Brian Darling, a Republican strategist and former Senate aide.

“I think it’s going to be some tough sailing in the short term. Maybe in the long term they’ll right the ship and be able to do what they originally wanted, to be the heir to the supporters of Trump,” he said.

“In the short term, Sen. Hawley and Sen. Cruz are facing calls for their resignation. They’re having a really tough time right now. They need to explain that what they were doing was justified under the Constitution and something Democrats have done in the past in 2016 and 2004,” he said.

Chip Saltsman, another Republican strategist, said the political situation for Hawley and Cruz looks worse in Washington than it does out in regular America, where he says many Republicans have concerns about Trump’s claims of voter fraud.

“They’re more in trouble in Washington, D.C., than they are back home,” he said.

Tags Ben Sasse Capitol breach Censure Donald Trump John Kerry Josh Hawley Mitt Romney Pat Toomey Patty Murray Sheldon Whitehouse Sherrod Brown Ted Cruz

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