I won’t rehash the mechanics of what happens in Congress on January 6. If you haven’t been following it, this post will catch you up. It’s enough here to say that whether McConnell can prevent any members of his caucus from objecting to the results in swing states is a less interesting question right now than *how many* Senate Republicans might end up objecting once one does.
All it takes is one objection to force a floor vote on whether to accept a state’s electoral votes, remember. If Tuberville is committed to objecting — or if Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue feel obliged to object in order to shore up righty support for their runoff races — then there’s no point in 2024 hopefuls staying on the sidelines. A Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley might be willing to play ball with McConnell and hold their objections in order to spare their colleagues in swing states a tough vote. But once a single objection is registered, thereby forcing that vote, they might as well come off the sidelines and object themselves in order to pander to MAGA voters.
I’d put the over/under on Republican objections at around five. Sounds like Tuberville might be the first:
BREAKING: Defying McConnell, Sen-elect Tuberville suggests he will challenge Electoral College, while stumping in Georgia pic.twitter.com/1z5wJ2ajVP
— Lauren Windsor (@lawindsor) December 17, 2020
He just got elected in Alabama by relentlessly kissing Trump’s ass, defeating the establishment choice *and* Jeff Sessions in the primary. He owes McConnell nothing and will hold his seat as long as he wants to hold it. Cocaine Mitch might punish him with lame committee assignments but Tuberville’s probably not in the Senate to do serious policy work. So why not object?
As a reminder, this gambit has zero chance of successfully blocking Biden’s inauguration. It’s pure theater for MAGA voters, with Republican incumbents like Marco Rubio and Ron Johnson who are up for reelection in purple states in 2022 forced to pay the price by taking a no-win position on an otherwise avoidable issue. There’s a fantasy scenario brewing online in which Mike Pence, who’ll preside over the January 6 session, will simply refuse to accept the electoral college results after they’re certified by Congress, but c’mon. Pence is an institutionalist and a traditional Republican. He’s barely lifted a finger to advance Trump’s post-election “I was cheated” narrative. He’ll do the right thing, as his own allies admit:
While Pence allies said there is no reason to doubt he will perform his duties as prescribed, some congressional Republicans have already vowed to push their colleagues to reject enough electoral votes to block Biden from becoming president. If Pence were to decline, the president pro tempore of the Senate would step in for the first time since 1969, when incumbent Vice President Hubert Humphrey — also the defeated Democratic nominee for president at the time — skipped the proceedings to attend a funeral.
The effort, led by GOP Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, is unlikely to yield Trump’s desired result but could easily leave Pence in an excruciating situation. One White House official compared the task at hand for Pence — which will include opening and counting electoral votes sent from each state — to someone delivering a death notice.
“By no means is this going to be an easy moment for the vice president or president to stomach,” the official said.
He might skip town early to take a trip to the Middle East, a little goodwill tour in preparation for his run for president in 2024 or 2028. In that case Chuck Grassley will fill in for him and do the honors of accepting Congress’s verdict.
The nightmare scenario that doomsayers feared might happen on January 6 involved one or more swing states sending *two* slates of “official” electors to the electoral college, forcing Congress to decide which slate to accept. Had Biden won a state narrowly, that state’s Democratic governor might have certified his victory while its Republican-controlled state legislature might have designated Trump the winner instead based on some dispute over legal ballots or what have you. A myth is circulating this week in some righty media outlets (including some well-known ones) that that’s what ended up happening — there’s a Democratic slate of electors that voted for Biden and a Republican one that voted for Trump and now Congress must choose which one to recognize.
But that’s false. No legislature or governor has designated any pro-Trump electors as official. It’s undisputed by the governments of Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Arizona that Biden won and his electors are the state’s official electors. Someone should tell Sidney Powell, whose latest court filing claims otherwise:
At one point, the filing states: “On December 14, 2020, the Republican majority State legislatures of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin exercised their plenary authority under the U.S. Constitution’s Electors Clause by permitting the full slate of Republican nominees to cast their electoral votes for President Donald J. Trump on a contingent basis.”…
None of this is true.
There is no endorsement from the Michigan Legislature. On Monday, both House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said Monday the election is over and Biden won the state.
There’s no “choice” before Congress on January 6 as to whether to accept Biden’s electors or Trump’s electors because … there are no Trump electors in any disputed state. They simply don’t exist as a matter of law because no arm of state government has recognized them. The most Congress could theoretically do, I suppose, is refuse to count a state’s electoral votes altogether rather than award them to Biden on the theory that that state’s results are “in dispute” or whatever. But of course, they won’t. There are enough centrist Republicans in the Senate to provide 51 votes for accepting the electoral votes.
Which, much like the Texas lawsuit that was dismissed by SCOTUS, makes it easy for populist Republicans to use this as a way to pander. If there were 51 Senate Republicans who seemed willing to somehow block Biden’s victory, people like Cruz and Hawley would have a tough decision to make on whether to go along. Because there aren’t 51 votes, they can make a big stink about cheating if they like and know that people like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins will do the right thing and bail them out. The same was true of Ken Paxton, the various state AGs, and the House Republicans who joined Texas’s lawsuit. They knew that more responsible actors like Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh would refuse to plunge the country into an existential crisis, which they treated as license to abandon their own moral obligation not to do so. Just another case of grandstanding populist free-riders putting on a show for Trump and MAGA, trusting that the RINOs will behave ethically when the time comes and spare the country from any consequences.
By the way, the city of Detroit is asking a local court to sanction Powell for “frivolously undermining ‘People’s faith in the democratic process and their trust in our government'” with her “Kraken” lawsuit. Between her conspiracy theorizing, the glaring misstatements of fact like the one above, the exaggeration of a key witness’s credentials, and the bizarre inclusion of named plaintiffs who never agreed to join her suit, they’ve got a shot at getting the court to agree.
I’ll leave you with this. Powell’s made a *lot* of wild accusations lately. Might be time to pay the piper.
Last night, lawyers for Dominion — the company that made voting systems at the heart of one of Sidney Powell et al.'s voter fraud conspiracy theories — sent a 15-page letter demanding she retract her "wild, knowingly baseless, and false accusations" https://t.co/2djnLDYxaa pic.twitter.com/URpJQFze0G
— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) December 17, 2020