On Wednesday, both chambers of Congress will meet in a joint session to count the electoral votes cast after November’s election, a gathering that is usually procedural and unsurprising.
But this year, the affirmation of president-elect Joe Biden’s win will be met with objections from Republican lawmakers in both chambers, likely delaying, but not changing, final approval of the votes.
As usual, House and Senate lawmakers will gather at 1 p.m. on Jan. 6, and Vice President Mike Pence will oversee the joint meeting. Typically, the session involves the alphabetical presentation of states’ certificates of electoral votes, which are read, recorded and counted by two lawmakers — or “tellers” — from each chamber.
In years without major controversy, the counting of the votes can happen quite quickly, sometimes in less than an hour. The most recent joint session, in 2017, lasted 41 minutes. The previous one in 2013 wrapped up in 23 minutes.
But this year, a number of Republican lawmakers in both the House and Senate say they plan to object to the electoral college votes, setting up for a drawn out process on Wednesday, which could include multiple hours of debate.
On Saturday, a coalition of 11 Republican senators, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), put out a statement detailing their intent to object to the votes.
“The allegations of fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election exceed any in our lifetimes,” the statement reads. “We do not take this action lightly. We are acting not to thwart the democratic process, but rather to protect it.”
Sen. Cruz will be joined by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), Sen.John Kennedy (R-LA), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN), and Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL)
They follow Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who announced last week that he plans to object.
Their efforts are expected to fail, since any objection must be approved by a vote from both the House and Senate, which has never happened.
The senators’ move comes despite open critique from their Republican colleagues and despite an earlier warning from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell not to raise objections. Some prominent Republicans have announced they will not reject the electoral college results.
“I cannot support allowing Congress to thwart the will of the voters,” said Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) in a statement Monday.
“After two months of recounts and legal challenges, not a single state recount changed a result and, of the dozens of lawsuits filed, not one found evidence of fraud or irregularities widespread enough to change the result of the election,” he added.
Former Missouri Republican Senator John Danforth, who encouraged Sen. Hawley’s run, denounced the senator’s intent to object, calling it a “highly destructive attack on our constitutional government.”
“It is the opposite of conservative; it is radical,” Danforth said in a statement.
Any objection must have the support of at least one lawmaker in the House and Senate, and it must be submitted in writing. Then, the House and Senate separate to debate and vote on the objection. Debate on each objection is limited to two hours.
Lawmakers typically submit objections to individual states’ votes, and Sen. Hawley has said he will contest Pennsylvania’s results. Sen. Cruz has not specified, only saying he would reject the electors from “disputed states,” which could include Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Both chambers must vote to uphold the objection for it to be accepted, which stands virtually no chance of happening.
In Georgia ahead of the state’s runoff election Monday, Vice President Pence referenced Wednesday’s procedure, which he will oversee.
“I want to assure you I share the concerns of millions of Americans about voting irregularities,” Pence said. “And I promise you, come this Wednesday, we’ll have our day in Congress. We’ll hear the objections.”
President Trump will also campaign for Georgia’s GOP Senate candidates Monday night, one day after the Washington Post released a recording of a call in which he pressured state officials to “find” votes in his favor. The President has continued to make false claims about widespread voter fraud and miscounting of votes.
Before Congress affirms Biden’s win, Sen. Cruz has called for the formation of a commission with “full investigatory and fact-finding authority” to do “an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states.”
It’s unlikely any such commission will be formed or that Cruz and other Republicans’ effort will be successful in any way, a fact they acknowledged themselves.
“We are not naïve,” their Saturday statement read. “We fully expect most if not all Democrats, and perhaps more than a few Republicans, to vote otherwise.”
In a rare statement this weekend, former Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called the Republican efforts "anti-democratic and anti-conservative."
“The fact that this effort will fail does not mean it will not do significant damage to American democracy,” Ryan said. "The Trump campaign had ample opportunity to challenge election results, and those efforts failed from lack of evidence.”