A battle is looming between congressional Republicans who plan to object to the certification of November’s presidential election results, and others who believe Congress needs to accept the will of the voters.
At least 12 Republican senators, and dozens of Republican members of the House of Representatives, have said they will object to the certification of the presidential election results when Congress formally counts the electoral votes on Wednesday, citing unfounded claims of election fraud.
The plan has been met with disdain from some influential Republicans and most Democrats. There has been no evidence of widespread election fraud.
But on Fox News on Sunday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tried to drum up support for the creation of a commission to investigate claims of voter fraud, which he said have “produced a deep, deep distrust of our democratic process across the country.” Cruz argued that all members of Congress have “an obligation to do something about that.”
Every court to examine the allegations of fraud have found them to be unfounded. Former Attorney General Bill Barr also said federal authorities haven’t uncovered any widespread fraud that might have affected the outcome of the election.
Cruz dismissed Barr’s comments. “Bill Barr was speaking as to the evidence the Department of Justice saw,” he said. “The Department of Justice wasn’t administering any elections, did not have access to particularly widespread evidence on either side of the issue.”
Cruz acknowledged that he and his Republican supporters “don’t want to be in a position where we’re suggesting setting aside the results of an election just because the candidate that we supported didn’t happen to prevail; that’s not a principled constitutional position.”
Cruz said it’s important that an electoral commission investigate potential fraud — if for no other reason than to reassure the 39% of people in a November Reuters/Ipsos poll who worry that the election was “rigged.”
“That’s bad for our democracy,” Cruz said. “That’s bad for the legitimacy of any subsequent presidential elections. And so dismissing these claims, I think, does real violence to our democratic system.”
And if an investigative commission finds evidence of fraud significant enough to affect the results in a particular state? “Then those election results would have to be set aside,” Cruz said.
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who supports the creation of an electoral commission, told NBC’s Meet the Press that when tens of millions of people don’t trust the results of an election, it’s important that lawmakers ensure everything was above board.
“We are not acting to thwart the democratic process; we are acting to protect it,” he said.
But most Republican senators believe it’s time to move on. In a bipartisan statement Sunday, four Republicans joined several Democratic senators in arguing that Congress must fulfill its responsibility to the voters and certify the election results.
“The voters have spoken, and Congress must now fulfill its responsibility to certify the election results,” read the statement, which was co-signed by Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Mitt Romney of Utah. Several Democratic senators and independent Sen. Angus King also signed on.
Some Republican senators wrote separately to express their alarm over the proposal. “The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic,” Romney said in a statement Saturday. “The congressional power to reject electors is reserved for the most extreme and unusual circumstances. These are far from it.”
Romney criticized Cruz and others for claiming that a congressionally directed election audit would restore trust in the election. “Nonsense,” Romney said. “Members of Congress who would substitute their own partisan judgment for that of the courts do not enhance public trust, they imperil it.”
In her separate statement Saturday, Murkowski urged her colleagues to certify the electoral votes without delay. “The courts and state legislatures have all honored their duty to hear legal allegations and have found nothing to warrant overturning the results,” she said.
Speaking to reporters Sunday, Collins pointed to the dozens of lawsuits filed by the administration — none of which have found any compelling evidence of voter fraud that would have made a difference in the outcome of the election. “From my perspective, the election is over,” Collins said. “The courts have spoken. The administration was given every opportunity to pursue its legal remedies, and it’s time to move on.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Twitter Sunday that he will “listen closely” to his colleagues’ objections to certifying the election results, but they have a “high bar” to clear.
Graham opposes the creation of an investigative body. “Proposing a commission at this late date — which has zero chance of becoming reality — is not effectively fighting for President Trump,” he said. “It appears to be more of a political dodge than an effective remedy.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also said he opposes intervening in the results.