GOP senators threaten to object to Electoral College results if commission is not formed

Lauren Egan and Kasie Hunt and Frank Thorp V and Leigh Ann Caldwell and Marianna Sotomayor

Nearly a dozen Republican senators and senators-elect demanded Saturday that a commission audit the results of the 2020 election and said they would otherwise object to the Electoral College votes that declared President-elect Joe Biden the winner.

Even though there is no evidence of any fraud in the election — despite numerous claims by President Donald Trump — the group of lawmakers said in a statement that they were calling on Congress to create a commission with "full investigatory and fact-finding authority, to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states."

The new Congress is to meet Wednesday to formally count the Electoral College votes, the majority of which Biden won. The group of Republican lawmakers threatened "to reject the electors from disputed states as not 'regularly given' and 'lawfully certified' (the statutory requisite), unless and until that emergency 10-day audit is completed."

With the House in Democratic hands, there is no chance that the action will have any effect on the outcome, and Biden will be sworn in on Jan. 20. But the action by Republicans in both chambers will prolong the debate over certification until the final votes are tallied in Congress.

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, 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 signed on to the statement Saturday, as did Sens.-elect Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.

The senators stopped short in their statement of saying they would bring forward a vote to object to the results.

Already, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she would vote to affirm the results, urging her colleagues from both parties to recognize the outcome and to "join me in maintaining confidence in the Electoral College and our elections so that we ensure we have the continued trust of the American people."

Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, one of the states where Trump has been contesting the results, said: "I voted for President Trump and endorsed him for re-election. But, on Wednesday, I intend to vigorously defend our form of government by opposing this effort to disenfranchise millions of voters in my state and others."

An objection is not considered unless it is in writing and signed by both a member of the House and a member of the Senate. For the objection to be sustained, both chambers must vote for it by simple majorities. If the chambers do not both agree, the original electoral votes are counted.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who will be one of four lawmakers who participate in tallying electoral votes as the ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee, criticized the Republicans' move as a "publicity stunt."

"It is undemocratic. It is un-American," she said. "And fortunately it will be unsuccessful. In the end, democracy will prevail."

Biden campaign spokesman Mike Gwin also dismissed it as stunt that "won't change the fact that President-elect Biden will be sworn in on January 20th, and these baseless claims have already been examined and dismissed by Trump's own Attorney General, dozens of courts, and election officials from both parties."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Senate Republicans that a vote on objections would be "the most consequential vote" of his career, and he has been encouraging his Republican conference not to join the objections.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., on Wednesday became the first senator to say he would object to certifying some states' Electoral College results, forcing other Republicans to vote on whether to reject Trump's unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud or disenfranchise millions of voters.

In a series of tweets Saturday evening, Trump praised the senators' actions, falsely claimed that he won by a "landslide" and said, "Our Country will love them for it!"

Trump has lashed out at members of his party who have failed to back up his outlandish claims of fraud, and he has called for the resignation of local GOP officials who have refused to overturn their states' results. Trump has not yet commented on the latest development, but his campaign tweeted a message of thanks to the senators.