“The president and his allies are playing with fire,” Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse wrote on Facebook last month.
Update (Jan. 6, 1:55 PM ET): Vice President Mike Pence has rejected a call to block certification of Joe Biden’s victory. In a two-page letter released Wednesday afternoon, he writes: “As a student of history who loves the Constitution and reveres its Framers. I do not believe that the Founders of our country intended to invest the vice president with unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted during the Joint Session of Congress, and no vice president in American history has ever asserted such authority.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also made a compelling case against overruling the results of the presidential election. “President Trump claims the election was stolen. … Nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale that would’ve tipped the entire election. Nor can public doubt alone justify a radical break when the doubt itself was incited without any evidence,” he said during the joint session.
“The voters, the court, and the states have all spoken,” McConnell continued. “They’ve all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever. This election was not unusually close. Just in recent history, 1976, 2000, and 2004 were all closer than this one. The Electoral College margin is almost identical to what it was in 2016. If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.”
Congress meets Wednesday afternoon in a joint session of House and Senate to certify the Electoral College votes, which will officially cement President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. However, the largely ceremonial procedure will likely be drawn out with hours of objections and arguments, as more than 150 Republican members of Congress have planned to mount a challenge to the results.
The presidential election was decided over a month ago, with Biden winning the Electoral College majority at 306 votes to Donald Trump’s 232. President Trump has since been on a crusade to discredit the process, whipping up doubt and fear in his followers with debunked conspiracy theories and claims that the election was “rigged’ and “stolen.” He has demanded ballot recounts in states that he lost, filed dozens of unsuccessful lawsuits, attacked the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Department of Justice for not supporting his claims, and attempted to leverage the power of his office to pressure election officials.
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Most recently, Trump called Georgia’s secretary of state to ask Brad Raffensperger to change the state’s vote tally, which is a federal offense.
“So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” the president said on the recorded phone call, obtained by the Washington Post.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley have rallied a small faction of Senate Republicans to take up Trump’s cause, while Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks has wrangled at least 140 House Republicans to support Wednesday’s challenge.
“Foreign countries, Big tech, fake news & the Dems worked together to RIG this election against @realDonaldTrump & the American people. Americans must have FAITH in the process. Today they don’t. I’m calling on every TX House member, @tedcruz & @JohnCornyn to join me in OBJECTING!” Texas Rep. Lance Gooden tweeted in December.
“I refuse to certify a stolen election. It is the duty of Congress to secure the integrity of our elections. On Jan. 6th, I will #FightForTrump,” Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene shared on social media.
Other lawmakers who have indicated they plan to challenge Biden’s win include: Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, Rep. Paul Gossar of Arizona, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, and Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas.
Ultimately, the effort is almost futile. When Congress counts the votes, an objection must have the support of both a House member and a senator, which will trigger a pause of up to two hours to allow the House and Senate members to separate, discuss the objection, and vote on it. The challenge would have to pass the House of Representatives, which Democrats control, and the Senate, where even top Republicans like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have privately urged lawmakers against disputing Biden’s win.
“The president and his allies are playing with fire,” Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse wrote on Facebook last month. “They have been asking – first the courts, then state legislatures, now the Congress – to overturn the results of a presidential election. They have unsuccessfully called on judges and are now calling on federal officeholders to invalidate millions and millions of votes. If you make big claims, you had better have the evidence. But the president doesn’t and neither do the institutional arsonist members of Congress who will object to the Electoral College vote.”
Vice President Mike Pence will preside over the proceedings. Trump, on advice of his inner circle of lawyers and White House officials, has insisted that Pence could delay the certification process, forcing either the House or the Supreme Court to declare the election winner.
On Tuesday evening, conflicting reports emerged from the White House. Pence told Trump he lacked the constitutional power to overturn the results, people briefed on the conversation told the New York Times. Trump then released a statement late Tuesday night disputing that conclusion. “He never said that,” the statement read. “The Vice President and I are in total agreement that the Vice President has the power to act.”
READ MORE: Sen. Josh Hawley, Who is Trying to Overturn The Election, Lied About Protesters and Called Them ‘Scum’
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from the original version.