President-elect Joe Biden is scheduled to have his Electoral College victory certified by Congress shortly after the New Year – but not before Republicans mount a long-shot, last-ditch effort to prevent it.
Momentum for the push to block Mr Biden’s victory is picking up on the rightward fringe of the GOP, with conservative superstar Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida and Congressman-elect Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina announcing their support this week.
Congresswoman-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who gained nationwide internet fame this past election cycle for once having supported the QAnon conspiracy theory, is also part of the group working to flip the election to Donald Trump despite Mr Biden’s decisive electoral victory.
Mr Gaetz and Mr Cawthorn are among “dozens” of GOP lawmakers in total who are backing Congressman Mo Brooks’ pursuit of an obscure Constitutional provision to nix the electoral votes, when Congress meets on 6 January, of five states – Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia, and Wisconsin – whose election processes conservatives have claimed, despite a scarcity of evidence, were rife with fraud.
“When you look at what’s happened in a lot of these liberal swing states that have liberal governors and liberal secretaries of state, you can see that they have broken the law and gone against our Constitution with this election,” Mr Cawthorn said at an event for young Republicans in West Palm Beach, Florida, earlier this week.
Mr Cawthorn’s statement is simply not accurate.
At least two of the five states whose election results are being challenged, Georgia and Arizona, have Republican governors.
And there is no evidence any of the governors or secretaries of state in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Wisconsin broke the law and abetted election fraud.
Nevertheless, Mr Cawthorn received a roar of applause as he wheeled across the stage on Monday in Florida, announcing: “And so, because of that, on January 6, as the people of western North Carolina sent me to Washington to do a job, I will be contesting the election.”
Mr Brooks’ allies also include the likes of Congressmen Louie Gohmert of Texas and Paul Gosar of Arizona, two lawmakers known for espousing various “deep state” conspiracy theories, striking controversial positions on race and immigration, and engaging in otherwise oddball behaviour on Capitol Hill.
Mr Brooks, Mr Gohmert, Mr Gosar, Mr Gaetz, and Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio were among a group of lawmakers in the next Congress who visited the White House on Monday to discuss their plans with Mr Trump to challenge the election results on 6 January.
While no official list exists of which Republicans are supporting that scheme, Mr Brooks and 18 other GOP House members co-signed a letter last week asking for investigations into allegations of election fraud before the new Congress meets on 6 January to certify the electoral results.
They are mostly the aforementioned young attention-grabbers such as Mr Gaetz, Mr Cawthorn and Ms Greene; well-known conspiracy-mongers such as Mr Gohmert and Mr Gosar; or obscure conservative back-benchers such as Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee and Jeff Duncan of South Carolina.
“It’s pretty clear that the momentum is growing in support of the objections to states’ submittals of Electoral College votes because of their flawed election systems and render them unworthy of trust,” Mr Brooks told reporters in Washington on Monday, providing no specific evidence to support his claims of fraud.
“We now in the House side are up to dozens of congressmen who are willing to object or co-sponsor objections to various states’ submittals, so we have more congressmen than we have states to object to,” Mr Brooks said.
Let’s be clear: the effort will fail, Congress will certify the Electoral College results, and Mr Biden will be sworn into office on Inauguration Day, 20 January.
Yes, just one senator and one House member would need to sign onto a formal challenge to a state’s election results to force each chamber into two hours of separate debate before voting to uphold them or throw them out.
Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville of Alabama has indicated he could be willing to play ball, as have Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
“On the Senate side, I think the question is now becoming not whether there will be a senator who is objecting [but] rather … how many senators join in the objections,” Mr Brooks told reporters on Monday.
But while Mr Brooks may be able to cajole at least one senator into forcing a vote on the Electoral College’s integrity, the actual motion to toss the results into the fire is certain to fail since majorities in both the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-held Senate are needed to pass it.
That simply won’t happen.
Democrats and even several Republicans in both chambers have roundly rejected the GOP’s legal challenges to the election results. Actually overturning the will of the Electoral College – whose composition is determined by the American people’s vote on 3 November – would represent an even more momentous step away from democracy.
And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already congratulated Mr Biden on his victory. He has quietly urged the most conservative senators in his caucus not to force their more moderate colleagues to take a “terrible vote” that would split the party.
Damage already done
Even if no senator steps up to the plate to execute an actual challenge to the electoral results, Mr Brooks’ campaign has already split the GOP along a line of loyalty to the outgoing president.
On Monday, Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois criticised Mr Cawthorn’s announcement that he would be challenging the 2020 election results.
“Applause is intoxicating … governing honourably is hard sometimes and has no adoring crowds, nor should it,” tweeted Mr Kinzinger, who has been a frequent critic of Mr Trump’s isolationist foreign policy in Iraq, Syria, and other conflict zones in the Middle East in which the US has a strong presence.
On Sunday, Utah Senator Mitt Romney lamented that the end of Mr Trump’s presidency has been marred by the torrent of election conspiracies emanating from the White House.
“It’s really sad in a lot of respects – and embarrassing – because the president could right now be writing the last chapter of this administration with a victory lap with regards to the vaccine,” the Utah Republican said in an interview on Sunday with CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Mr Romney alluded to the growing rift within the GOP between traditional figures in the party and the new wave of Republicans who put blind loyalty to Mr Trump above all else.
“I represent a very small slice of Republican party today,” Mr Romney admitted to Mr Tapper.
“As I look at the 2024 contenders, most of them are trying to become as much like Donald Trump as they can be.”