GOP senators face criticism in wake of challenges to Electoral College vote

Republican senators involved in a planned challenge to the results of the presidential election defended the widely-criticized effort Sunday, while Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Tight security for Capitol rally; Biden agenda slows Trump offers sympathy for those charged with Jan. 6 offenses Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (R-S.C.) indicated he would decline to join.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David ToddIf .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden GOP governor: Biden's vaccine mandate 'increases the division' Manchin says he can't support Biden's .5 trillion spending plan MORE grilled Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senator: Buying Treasury bonds 'foolish' amid standoff over debt ceiling, taxes Internal poll shows Barnes with 29-point lead in Wisconsin Democratic Senate primary Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate facing 4 felony charges MORE (R-Wis.), who has signed onto a letter along with 10 other senators who said they would oppose the Electoral College count, calling him an “arsonist” for promoting the unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud that have led to widespread mistrust of the election results among Republicans.

"We are now locked into a destructive vicious circle. ... You made an allegation that there was widespread fraud. You have failed to offer specific evidence of that widespread fraud,” Todd told Johnson. “But you're demanding an investigation on the grounds that there are allegations of widespread fraud.”

Johnson insisted he “didn’t start this” and instead accused the press of ignoring the Senate’s investigation into President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes MORE’s son Hunter.

Todd asked Johnson, who is up for re-election in 2022, whether he was “simply trying to curry favor with constituents of the president.”

Johnson replied that he was “trying to be transparent.”

Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMore than 10,000 migrants await processing under bridge in Texas Senators slow Biden with holds at Pentagon, State The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails MORE (R-Texas) and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleySenators slow Biden with holds at Pentagon, State Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE (R-Mo.), both of whom have announced they will challenge the results, are widely seen as potential 2024 contenders for the GOP presidential nomination.

Cruz, meanwhile, defended his participation in the objection on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” and criticized those who have accused him of sedition for seeking to overturn the election results.

“I think we need to tone down the rhetoric. This is already a volatile situation. It's like a tinderbox and throwing lit matches into it," Cruz said, criticizing “hyperbole” and “angry language.”

Sens. Ben SasseBen SassePresident of newly recognized union for adult performers boosts membership Romney blasts Biden over those left in Afghanistan: 'Bring them home' Progressives breathe sigh of relief after Afghan withdrawal MORE (R-Neb.) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack Overnight On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — GOP senator: It's 'foolish' to buy Treasury bonds Democrats aim for maximum pressure on GOP over debt ceiling MORE (R-Utah) are among Cruz’s Republican colleagues who have criticized the move.

Meanwhile, Graham, one of Trump’s most vocal allies in the chamber, said on Sunday that he would not join the effort, which he called a “political dodge.” He singled out for criticism the 11 senators’ call for an electoral commission to audit the results in swing states won by Biden.

“Proposing a commission at this late date – which has zero chance of becoming reality – is not effectively fighting for President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE,” Graham tweeted Sunday. “It appears to be more of a political dodge than an effective remedy.”

Sen. David PerdueDavid PerdueGOP sees Biden crises as boon for midterm recruitment Trump campaign, RNC refund donors another .8 million in 2021: NYT Loeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run MORE (R-Ga.) said that while his name is not on the letter, he supported the effort. Perdue will defend his seat in one of two Georgia runoffs Tuesday, but the results will not yet be certified by Wednesday when Congress votes.

“I repeatedly called for a special session of the General Assembly to investigate” allegations of voter fraud in Georgia, Perdue said on “Sunday Morning Futures.” “None of that happened. And so I started calling out for – the only thing left for the president is for us to object. And I agreed that I would do that.”

Meanwhile, CNN’s Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - DC prepares for Saturday of festivals & Jan. 6 demonstration Overnight Health Care — Nicki Minaj stokes uproar over vaccines Fauci responds to Nicki Minaj's vaccine worries MORE challenged Ohio Gov. Mike DeWineMike DeWineHundreds of Ohio state workers, spouses take advantage of 0 vaccine incentive Suspects in Whitmer kidnap plot discussed attacking Ohio governor, prosecutors say Cincinnati mayor announces Ohio gubernatorial campaign MORE on the efforts, with DeWine saying people were “concerned” about electoral integrity and Tapper countering that those people had “been lied to.”

“The big picture, with changes in technology, potential hacking, all of these things, we need to have a commission, as Sen. [Rob] Portman says, that takes a long look at this. Not something you can do in 10 days," DeWine responded. “Why is this important? If for no other reason ... there are a lot of people out there that are questioning this election. People need to have confidence."

"Forget me...there are Republican senators who say that people in your party are doing real, lasting damage to American democracy by fully embracing these dangerous conspiracy theories," Tapper responded.