WASHINGTON — Eleven Republican senators and senators-elect said on Saturday that they would vote to reject President-elect Joe Biden’s victory this upcoming week when Congress meets to formally certify it, joining a growing movement in their party in defying the unambiguous results of the election and indulging President Donald Trump’s futile attempts to remain in power with false claims of voting fraud.
Every state in the country has certified the election results after verifying their accuracy, many after undergoing postelection audits or hand counts. Judges across the country, including the Supreme Court, have rejected nearly 60 attempts by Trump and his allies to challenge the results.
And none of the senators who said they would vote to invalidate the results has made a specific allegation of fraud, instead offering vague suggestions that some wrongdoing might have occurred and asserting that many of their supporters believe that it has.
But while their opposition to certifying Biden’s election will not change the outcome, it guarantees that what would normally be a perfunctory session on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to ratify the results of the presidential election will instead become a partisan and potentially drawn-out brawl, in which Republicans amplify specious claims of widespread election rigging and impropriety that have been debunked and dismissed for months even as Trump has stoked them.
It will also deepen a dilemma for Republicans, forcing them to choose between accepting the results of a democratic election — even if it means angering supporters who dislike the outcome — and joining their colleagues in displaying loyalty to Trump, who has demanded in increasingly angry and desperate fashion that they back his bid to cling to the presidency.
The conundrum is especially acute for Vice President Mike Pence, who as president of the Senate has the role of presiding over Wednesday’s proceedings and declaring Biden the winner. On Friday, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by House Republicans to pressure Pence to do otherwise, and instead overturn the results unilaterally.
In the joint statement, the Republicans — including seven senators and four who are to be sworn in on Sunday — called for a 10-day audit of election returns in “disputed states,” and said they would vote to reject the electors from those states until one was completed.
The group is led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and also includes Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Steve Daines of Montana, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Mike Braun of Indiana, and Sens.-elect Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.
Together with Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who announced this week that he would object to Congress’ certification of the election results, they bring to nearly one-quarter the proportion of Senate Republicans who have broken with their leaders to join the effort to invalidate Biden’s victory. In the House, where a band of conservatives has been plotting the last-ditch election objection for weeks, more than half of Republicans joined a failed lawsuit seeking to overturn the will of the voters, and more are expected to support the effort to challenge the results in Congress this upcoming week.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., has said he will object to certifying the results, and with Hawley’s support, that challenge would hold weight, prompting senators and representatives to retreat to their chambers on opposite sides of the Capitol for a two-hour debate and then a vote on whether to disqualify a state’s votes. Both the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate would have to agree to toss out a state’s electoral votes — something that has not happened since the 19th century and is not expected this time.
In their statement, the Republicans cited poll results showing most members of their party believe the election was “rigged,” an assertion that Trump has made for months, and which has been repeated in the right-wing news media and by many Republican members of Congress.
“A fair and credible audit — conducted expeditiously and completed well before January 20 — would dramatically improve Americans’ faith in our electoral process and would significantly enhance the legitimacy of whoever becomes our next president,” they wrote. “We are acting not to thwart the democratic process, but rather to protect it.”
They also noted that their effort was likely to be unsuccessful, given that any such challenge must be sustained by both the House, where Democrats hold the majority, and the Senate, where top Republicans, including Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, have tried to shut it down.
“We fully expect most if not all Democrats, and perhaps more than a few Republicans, to vote otherwise,” the senators wrote.
Congress’ certification process is typically a procedural step, but as Trump continues to perpetuate the myth of widespread voter fraud, Republicans in Congress have been eager to challenge the results. That is the case even though the vast majority of them just won elections in the very same balloting they are now claiming was fraudulently administered.
McConnell has discouraged lawmakers in the Senate from joining the House effort, and Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Republican, told reporters the challenge to the election results would fail in the Senate “like a shot dog.” That prompted a Twitter tirade from Trump, who chimed in on Saturday to say that other lawmakers would soon join the group’s bid. “After they see the facts, plenty more to come,” he tweeted.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., on Thursday condemned the attempt, rebuking it as a “dangerous ploy” intended to “disenfranchise millions of Americans.”
Josh Holmes, a Republican strategist and McConnell’s former chief of staff, predicted on Twitter that those involved with objecting to the election results would eventually regret their stance.
“Rarely can you predict with 100% assurance that years from now everyone who went down this road will wish they had a mulligan,” Holmes wrote.
For years, Trump has railed against contests in which he lost, dislikes the outcome or fears he might lose. He has objected to the results of the Emmys, falsely claimed President Barack Obama did not win the popular vote, asserted that Cruz “stole” a primary victory from him in Iowa in 2016 and predicted the election in which he defeated the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would be “rigged.”
As Biden racked up victories in November, Trump indulged in increasingly outlandish fictions, spreading disinformation about the election’s results and encouraging his followers to challenge the vote at every step. In recent weeks, as his legal defeats have grown, the president has become more and more vitriolic in his condemnations of Republicans who fail to support his false claims of having been the true victor in the election, and has showered with praise those who parrot his accusations.
The vote tally and procedures in every battleground state that Trump contests have been affirmed through multiple postelection audits. Biden won the election with over 7 million more votes than Trump and with 306 Electoral College votes, surpassing the threshold of 270 needed to win the presidency.