GOP to challenge Biden electoral victory

2021-01-04 12:05:14

This combination of file pictures created on Oct 22, 2020 shows US President Donald Trump (L) and Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on Oct 22, 2020. [Photo/Agencies] It is so scripted by the US Constitution and the Electoral Count Act of 1887 that few members of Congress attend. But not this year. On Wednesday, when Congress holds a joint session to count each state's Electoral College vote to formally certify President-elect Joe Bien's victory over President Donald Trump, about 114 Republican lawmakers in the House and at least 11 in the Senate who are allies of Trump say they will object to certifying the results from a number of states, including Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania. On Sunday, The Washington Post released a transcript and audio of a call that Trump made on Saturday to Georgia's election chief, suggesting that he could "find'' enough votes to overturn Biden's win in the state and hand Trump the victory. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his office's general counsel rejected Trump's assertions throughout, according to the audio excerpts and the newspaper's account. Trump on Sunday in a tweet confirmed he had spoken to Raffensperger. Also on Sunday, Nancy Pelosi was narrowly reelected as House speaker, giving her the reins of Democrats' slender House of Representatives majority. The California Democrat, who has led her party in the House since 2003 and is the only woman to be speaker, had been widely expected to retain her post. Pelosi received 216 votes to 209 for Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, who again will be the chamber's minority leader. To gain her victory, Pelosi had to overcome some Democratic grumbling about her longevity, a slim 222-211 edge over Republicans after November's elections and a handful of absences because of the coronavirus. There were two vacancies in the 435-member House, and Democrats will have the smallest House majority in two decades. As detailed in the Electoral Count Act, if a member from the House and the Senate object to an Electoral College slate in writing, both chambers must adjourn to their respective chambers, debate the objection for a maximum of two hours and then vote on the contest. If the Republicans lodge several objections that are accepted, it will turn what historically has been a ceremonial act into a partisan session that could stretch on for hours. But their objections won't change the outcome. Biden's win will be certified by the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate, where there are enough GOP senators who have already said they will oppose efforts to object to the Electoral College vote: 306 for the former vice-president, 232 for Trump. Every state has certified the election results after verifying their accuracy. Judges across the country have rejected nearly 60 attempts to invalidate the results, and the Supreme Court has twice done so. In a statement on Saturday afternoon, the GOP senators led by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas insisted their effort wasn't an attempt to thwart Biden or overturn the election, but rather aimed to protect "election integrity". They said they intended to reject the electors from states where they claimed "unprecedented allegations of voter fraud, violations and lax enforcement of election law" arose until a 10-day audit of the election results in each state has been completed. "By any measure, the allegations of fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election exceed any in our lifetimes," the group said. Vice-President Mike Pence as president of the Senate will preside over the joint session, and his role is basically ceremonial. But on Saturday, he signaled support for Republicans who say they will object to state results. Pence issued a statement saying he "shares the concerns of millions of Americans about voter fraud and irregularities in the last election". Pence, Cruz and several of the senators who have endorsed the move to challenge the Electoral College vote are seen as likely presidential candidates in 2024. At the urging of Trump, supporters are planning to descend on the nation's capital on Wednesday to pressure Republican lawmakers into overturning Biden's Electoral College victory, and there are concerns that a massive pro-Trump turnout could turn violent as the far-right Proud Boys said they would join the protest. The move to reject the electoral votes was denounced by both Republican and Democrat lawmakers. A spokesman for Biden, Michael Gwin, said on Saturday: "This stunt won't change the fact that President-elect Biden will be sworn in on 20 January, and these baseless claims have already been examined and dismissed by Trump's own attorney general, dozens of courts, and election officials from both parties." "It is undemocratic. It is un-American. And fortunately, it will be unsuccessful. In the end, democracy will prevail," said Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the panel overseeing the Electoral College count, in a statement. Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who lost the 2012 presidential election to Barack Obama, joined a bipartisan group of 10 senators in declaring that "the election is over". "At this point, further attempts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 Presidential election are contrary to the clearly expressed will of the American people and only serve to undermine Americans' confidence in the already determined election results," they said in a joint statement. Romney's running mate in the 2012 presidential election, former House speaker Paul Ryan, condemned the Republican efforts to reject the electoral votes from some states, saying Sunday it is "difficult to conceive of a more anti-democratic and anti-conservative act". When the joint session ends with all the electoral votes counted, Pence — who hasn't acknowledged that Trump lost his bid for re-election — is to declare the winner of the election. Following the 2016 election of Trump, half a dozen Democratic House members raised objections to his Electoral College wins in certain states. But Biden — then vice-president and president of the Senate — repeatedly slammed his gavel to halt their efforts because they lacked a Senate sponsor. "It is over," Biden said then as Republican lawmakers applauded. The Associated Press contributed to this story.