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Mike Pence has rejected a GOP lawsuit aiming to expand the vice president’s authority in Congress to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, striking a blow against a growing body of Republican lawmakers who plan to object during the formal count of the electoral votes next week.
The vice president’s filing on Thursday responded to a lawsuit from Texas congressman Louie Gohmert and Arizona Republicans in an attempt to throw out electoral college votes during a joint session of Congress on 6 January, with the vice president presiding, to formally certify Joe Biden’s win.
The lawsuit argues that the vice president has the ultimate authority to determine the validity of electoral votes, as Donald Trump’s allies file dozens of meritless court challenges to contest the validity of elections in several battleground states.
"The 'plaintiffs’ suit seeks to empower the Vice President to unilaterally and unreviewably decide objections to the validity of electoral votes," according to the 14-page filing from Mr Pence, through Department of Justice lawyers.
But "a suit to establish that the Vice President has discretion over the count, filed against the Vice President, is a walking legal contradiction,” the brief says.
Mr Gohmert is among at least 140 GOP lawmakers in the House of Representatives who intend to object to the results, according to CNN. Their attempt undermines the votes of millions of Americans by relying on spurious claims of election fraud, interference and vote manipulation, amplified by the president and his campaign.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned the ploy among Republican lawmakers who have “refused to respect the will of the American people and instead have spread dangerous conspiracy theories and brought over fifty extreme, failed lawsuits in a brazen attempt to overturn the certified results of the 2020 election,” she said in a statement on Thursday.
“The Gohmert lawsuit has zero legal merit and is yet another sabotage of our democracy," she said.
She contended that “despite this desperate unpatriotic charade” Mr Biden will be confirmed on 6 January.
Congressman Gohmert is challenging the constitutionality of the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which establishes procedures for the vote count and how members of Congress can raise their challenges.
Both a House member and senator must agree to object to the count in order to trigger a vote on whether to accept the results, which is almost certain to fail. Republicans in the House have mounted a campaign to pressure GOP senators to validate their efforts.
Among the challengers, led by Alabama’s Mo Brooks, are Georgia’s Jody Hice, Louisiana’s Clay Higgins, New Jersey’s Jeff Van Drew, and recently elected far-right House members Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn and Marjorie Taylor Green.
Trump loyalists in the House have at least one ally in the Senate – Missouri’s Josh Hawley.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly demanded GOP senators to avoid engaging any attempt to overturn the results.
On the Senate floor this month, he said: “Many of us had hoped the presidential election would yield a different result … But our system of government has the processes to determine who will be sworn in on January 20. The Electoral College has spoken.”
Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska said his colleagues who plan to challenge the results are “playing with fire.”
“They have unsuccessfully called on judges and are now calling on federal officeholders to invalidate millions and millions of votes,” he said in a statement.
"If you make big claims, you had better have the evidence. But the president doesn't and neither do the institutional arsonist members of Congress who will object to the Electoral College vote."