PA GOP legislature leaders stiff Team Trump: We're gone for holidays, you know

At first blush, this statement from over the weekend looks like a generic adjournment announcement. On closer inspection, however, consider this the final assessment of Rudy Giuliani’s presentation to Pennsylvania Republicans. The two GOP leaders of the state legislature quietly announced on Saturday that they wouldn’t come back for any more business until January 5th.

The Washington Examiner noted the implications this morning:

The Republican leaders of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives announced late Saturday that they will not be returning to session this year, a move that would appear to preclude any possibility of lawmakers interceding in the 2020 election.

House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Quarryville, and Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, released a joint statement saying that they would not be calling their chamber to Harrisburg on Monday, the final possible day for the 2019-20 session of the Legislature to meet.

“We are physically unable to consider any new legislation before the end of session,” they wrote in the statement. “A simple resolution takes three legislative days for consideration and a concurrent resolution takes five legislative days to move through both chambers, which means we do not have the time needed to address any new resolutions in our current session.” …

Given that the House won’t meet before the Electoral College gathers to pick the next president Dec. 14, President Donald Trump’s hopes that state lawmakers in Pennsylvania would step in and choose electors appear to be dashed.

That came just three days after Giuliani held a “hearing” for GOP state lawmakers in Gettysburg … and one of those days was Thanksgiving. It didn’t take long for Republican leadership in the Keystone State to assess that there was no there there. Had they found Giuliani at all convincing, they would have at least opened for business today to discuss the possibility of extending the session. That may not have succeeded, but it doesn’t appear that Giuliani convinced the two party leaders it was necessary in the first place.

This de facto adjournment leaves no option at all for the Trump campaign to win in the Electoral College, precluding even the most optimistic scenario. There is no path to winning the election without dealing with Pennsylvania’s 20 electors. If they’re cast for Joe Biden, Trump would need some combination of three other states to blow their Safe Harbor date — and certifications in Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin are either done or just about to be finalized.

That also cuts the legs out from under state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who planned to introduce a motion to replace the electors. This series of tweets came just hours before the two leaders announced the adjournment:

It seems pretty clear that Republican leadership isn’t buying the argument for fraud nor Mastriano’s legal analysis on jurisdiction. Even before Justice Wecht noted the problem in both state and federal law, this idea was clearly a non-starter with Mastriano’s leadership:

Congress has declared that each State’s method “for its final determination of any controversy or contest concerning the appointment of all or any of the electors of such State” must have been established “by laws enacted prior to the day fixed for the appointment of the electors”— i.e., before November 3, 2020. See 3 U.S.C. § 5 (emphasis added). Accordingly, to persist in seeking to overturn the result of any election by legislative putsch is a fool’s errand—and an arguably unconstitutional one at that. See PA. CONST. art. I, § 5 (“Elections shall be free and equal; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.”).

Indeed. Rather than get into a floor fight with Mastriano, which might have turned into a spectacle of its own, Cutler and Benninghof simply opted not to provide the circus with yet another forum. It may not be brave, but it is effective — far more so than Giuliani’s circus on Wednesday.

Will that convince Trump and his allies that this is over? Will Doug Ducey’s declaration that Arizona “do[es] elections well” get people across the goal line of Trump’s loss? Probably not entirely, but it might get the ball closer to the end zone.