Missouri Republican US Senator Josh Hawley on Wednesday became the first senator to announce he will raise an objection to Congress’ count of the electoral vote next week, setting up a slowdown of the final step in Joe Biden’s election.
“I cannot vote to certify the electoral college results on January 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws,” Hawley said in a statement.
“And I cannot vote to certify without pointing out the unprecedented effort of mega corporations, including Facebook and Twitter, to interfere in this election, in support of Joe Biden. At the very least, Congress should investigate allegations of voter fraud and adopt measures to secure the integrity of our elections. But Congress has so far failed to act,” Hawley said.
Millions of voters concerned about election integrity deserve to be heard. I will object on January 6 on their behalf pic.twitter.com/kTaaPPJGHE
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) December 30, 2020
Per US law, a Joint Session of Congress will convene on January 6 to tally the electoral votes certified by each state on December 14, when the Electoral College met and made Biden’s election as president official.
Vice President Mike Pence, in his role as president of the Senate, is slated to preside over the session, which in most years is a smoothly-run, ceremonial event. This year, however, Hawley’s planned action, combined with a group of conservatives in the House of Representatives, led by Alabama US Representative Mo Brooks, who have already indicated they will raise objections to states’ electoral votes, promises to slow the process down and add a tinge of drama to the proceedings.
The law allows any member of Congress to object to a state’s votes, but for an objection to be official, one member of the US House and one US Senator must object. If Hawley does object, an objection will be dealt with by the Congress as a whole.
Once an objection to a state’s votes is made, each house of Congress meets in their respective chambers, debates the objection for two hours and votes on whether to uphold the objection. Both the House and Senate must vote to uphold for the objection to become official.
Given that the House is majority Democratic, it is certain that any objection raised by Republicans will not be upheld.
In fact, no electoral vote objection has been upheld since this electoral process was codified in law in 1887. Only twice before, in 1969 and 2005, has a debate been forced on a raised objection, according to the Congressional Research Service, and both times the objections were rejected.
The objections that will be raised will only slow the counting down and are not expected to alter the ultimate result: 306 electoral votes for Biden and 232 for President Donald Trump. In effect, the conservative-backed slowdown ultimately will amount to a showy protest, something sure to please Trump and his backers, but will not prevent Biden from being sworn in on January 20.
“I don’t expect this to make a difference in the outcome, but rather only to extend the day as the chambers of Congress consider objections,” Rick Hasen, an election law expert and law professor at the University of California at Irvine, wrote on his blog.
Trump, who has not conceded the election and has been unsuccessfully seeking ways to overturn the election results, has been encouraging his Republican supporters in Congress to raise challenges during the January 6 count and has criticised Republican leaders who have tried to shut the idea down.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been encouraging Republicans not to raise objections as he worries about putting his members in the awkward political position of having to be on the record with a vote for or against Trump.
The Senate’s number-two Republican, John Thune, predicted earlier this month that any effort to affect the ultimate outcome would “go down like a shot dog.”
“I just don’t think it makes a lot of sense to put everybody through this when you know what the ultimate outcome is going to be,” Thune said.
Last week, Trump slammed him on Twitter saying Thune “should just let it play out. South Dakota doesn’t like weakness. He will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!!”
Republicans in the Senate so quickly forget. Right now they would be down 8 seats without my backing them in the last Election. RINO John Thune, “Mitch’s boy”, should just let it play out. South Dakota doesn’t like weakness. He will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2020