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Republicans back Pence rebuke of Trump on overturning 2020 election

A number of GOP figures on Sunday said they backed former Vice President Mike Pence in his rebuke of former President Trump’s claim that he had the authority to overturn the 2020 election results.

Pence made headlines on Friday when he broke from Trump in the clearest terms yet, saying the former president was “wrong” in believing he had the right to overturn the election when he oversaw the official count of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021. The former vice president called Trump’s suggestion “un-American.”

“I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone,” Pence said at a Federalist Society event on Friday.

His comments came days after Trump issued a statement saying he believed Pence had the authority to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Trump’s favor.

Pence refused to give in to Trump’s pressure and block the certification of the Electoral College results in January 2021. Pence has indicated that he did not know if he and Trump would “ever see eye to eye on that day.”

Several Republicans on Sunday came to Pence’s defense, saying they agreed he had no authority to single-handedly give Trump a second term.

Former Pence chief of staff Marc Short on Sunday said Trump’s suggestion that the vice president could have overturned the election results “merited response,” which was why the former vice president chose to address Trump’s comments.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that “vice presidents can’t simply decide not to certify an election” when asked if he agreed with Pence.

Pressed on if he believes the former president’s suggestion was wrong, Rubio said he would not want Vice President Harris to overturn the results if Trump were to win reelection in the future.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told “Fox News Sunday” that Pence “did his constitutional duty that day.”

“It’s not the Congress that elects the president, it’s the American people,” he added.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said “the actions the vice president took on Jan. 6 spoke loudly,” adding that he was “glad” Pence “finally put words to it.”

“I don’t know why it took him so long, but I’m glad that he did,” Christie said.

Christie, who served as a Trump adviser, called the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol an effort by the former president “to intimidate Mike Pence and the Congress into doing exactly what he said in his own words last week, overturn the election.”

And during an appearance on “Face the Nation,” H.R. McMaster, who served as national security adviser under Trump, said he “absolutely” agreed with Pence’s take on Trump’s comments when asked about the remarks.

“All Americans should agree with Vice President Pence,” McMaster said.

“It’s time … I think, to demand more from our political leaders, demand that they stop compromising confidence in our democratic principles and institutions and processes to score partisan political points. And as you know, this happens across both political parties and it’s just time to stop,” he added.

Trump’s statement in question specifically pointed to Congress’s push to reform the Electoral Count Act as proof that Pence had the power to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The 1887 statute outlines how Electoral College votes are counted.

The effort to reform the decades-old law is gaining momentum on Capitol Hill, with members from both parties viewing the initiative as a bipartisan compromise to addressing voting reform — a top legislative initiative among Democrats that has since stalled amid internal party clashes regarding Senate rules.

A coalition of Senate Democrats rolled out legislation on Tuesday that would clarify that the vice president’s role in overseeing the electoral vote count is ceremonial and increase the number of House and Senate lawmakers needed to back an objection before a vote is triggered in the chamber. Under the law now, only one member in each chamber is required. 

The legislation also calls for upping the threshold for upholding the objection from a simple majority in both chambers to three-fifths in the House and Senate.

At the same time, a separate, bipartisan group of senators — comprised of 16 lawmakers — is working on its own proposal to reform the arcane law. That group is led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Manchin on Sunday told CNN’s “State of the Union” that the true source of the Jan. 6 insurrection was the “ambiguity” behind the rules for counting of the Electoral College vote, noting that the regulations were “not clear.”

He said the bill the bipartisan group is working on would fix that issue.

“What really caused the insurrection? They thought there was a kind of ambiguity — ambiguity, if you will, and there was an avenue they could go through and maybe overturn the election, because there was. It was not clear,” Manchin said.

“And when one congressman and one senator can bring a state’s authentic count to a halt, it’s wrong, and basically not protecting the electors, and you can change electors before you send the here, after the election, all these things. This is what we’re going to fix. And we have a group right now that’s continuing to grow,” he added.

Tags Chris Christie Donald Trump Joe Manchin John Barrasso Marco Rubio Mike Pence Susan Collins

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