U.S. President-elect Joe Biden looks at his watch as he arrives arrives to announce former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg as his nominee for secretary of transportation during a news conference at Biden’s transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., December 16, 2020.
Kevin Lemarque | Reuters
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Wednesday forcefully rebuked efforts from members of his own party to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over President Donald Trump.
“The voters have spoken,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “If we overrule them, we damage our republic forever.”
The GOP leader explicitly rejected Trump’s frequent claims that his loss in the election was due to massive fraud, and called out his colleagues in Congress who have vowed to lodge objections to the electoral results.
“Nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale, the massive scale that would have tipped the entire election,” McConnell said. “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. We would never see the whole nation accept an election again.”
“It would be unfair and wrong to disenfranchise American voters and overrule the courts and the states on this extraordinarily thin basis. And I will not pretend such a vote would be a harmless protest gesture while relying on others to do the right thing,” McConnell said.
“I will vote to respect the people’s decision and defend our system of government as we know it.”
McConnell’s remarks came as both chambers of Congress convened to count and confirm the results of the Electoral College. Republicans in the House and Senate objected to Arizona’s Electoral College results minutes after the proceedings began, triggering a period of debate that could last hours.
Republicans are expected to object to other states as their electoral vote tallies are announced.
Shortly before the joint session of Congress began at 1 p.m. ET, Vice President Mike Pence, who is presiding over the proceedings, said in a letter that he did not believe he has the unilateral power to reject Electoral College votes for a candidate.
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) bows his head as Republicans applaud him and Senator Paul Gosar (R-AZ) objecting to Arizona’s votes during a joint session to certify the 2020 election results, inside the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Trump, who was speaking at a rally outside the White House as the statement was made public, repeatedly urged Pence to send key electoral votes back to states in a last-ditch bid to overturn the election results.
Wednesday’s proceedings mark the final step in confirming Biden as the next president of the United States.
With Democrat Biden’s 306 electoral votes — 36 more than needed — the process normally would be a formality. But this year, it may take days because of what is likely to be a doomed effort by Trump to overturn his defeat, based on his false claims that he lost as the result of widespread ballot fraud.
Pence’s role, which involves reading the vote tallies as they are unsealed and asking Congress if there are any objections, is traditionally a ceremonial one.
But in the lead-up to the joint session of Congress, Trump publicly heaped pressure on Pence to intervene, falsely claiming the vice president has the power to reject electoral votes that were cast weeks earlier by electors confirmed by their states’ governors.
“All Mike Pence has to do is send [the electoral votes] back to the States, AND WE WIN,” Trump tweeted. “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”
The president’s assertion came after the Trump campaign pushed back on New York Times reporting that Pence told Trump he had no power to block the certification of Biden’s win.
A baker’s dozen of Republican senators and dozens of GOP House members, however, have indicated they will object to certifying electors from several battleground states that gave Biden his margin of victory.
While those objections will trigger formal debate in both chambers of Congress, Biden is expected to be confirmed as president.
That’s because Democrats hold a majority in the House, and enough Republican senators have said they would join Democrats in the Senate in opposing objections to Biden’s slate of electors.
Overturning a state’s Electoral College result requires the agreement of both chambers of Congress.
In grievance-filled remarks at the White House Ellipse, about two miles from the U.S. Capitol, Trump again falsely asserted that he beat Biden, while lashing out at “weak Republicans” who have “turned a blind eye.”
Less than an hour before the congressional proceedings were set to begin, Trump repeatedly urged Pence to reject certain electoral votes.
“If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election,” Trump told a large crowd of his supporters. “Mike pence has to agree to send it back.”
“Mike Pence I hope you’re going to stand up for the good of our constitution and for the good of our country, and if you’re not I’m going to be very disappointed in you, I will tell you right now. I’m not hearing good stories,” Trump said.
Biden is scheduled to be inaugurated two weeks from Wednesday.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.