Shutterstock Sen. John Thune
Top Republican lawmakers in the Senate are breaking with President Donald Trump and are urging their colleagues in the House of Representative not to move forward with a last-ditch and almost certainly doomed effort to challenge the 2020 election results next month.
“In the Senate, it would go down like a shot dog,” South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, told CNN this week. “I just don’t think that it makes a lot of sense to put everybody through this when you know what the ultimate outcome is going to be.”
The party’s tug-of-war — over continuing to support Trump’s baseless election fraud claims and acknowledging President-elect Joe Biden’s victory — has been underlined in recent days, as leading conservatives begin to accept Trump's defeat while others continue to support him.
Last Tuesday — 38 days after the race was called by the major media outlets and Biden delivered his acceptance speech — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recognized Biden as the president-elect for the first time in the wake of the Electoral College meeting and as Trump's evidence-free legal challenges have failed, one by one. Various state recounts have also repeatedly confirmed Biden's victory.
Meanwhile, however, a group of Republican representatives met with the president at the White House on Monday. There they reportedly discussed a plan to object to the Electoral College results during a Jan. 6 congressional meeting to officially count the electors' votes showing Biden beat Trump 306-232.
These lawmakers cite claims of widespread fraud that have yet to be proven.
Chris Kleponis - Pool/Getty Sen. John Thune (left) and President Donald Trump in 2018
“Several members of Congress just finished a meeting in the Oval Office with President @realDonaldTrump, preparing to fight back against mounting evidence of voter fraud,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows tweeted. “Stay tuned.”
According to public statements on Twitter, Reps. Matt Gaetz, Mo Brooks and Jody Hice were among those in the meeting. Representative-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, a controversial Georgia politician who has supported the QAnon conspiracy theory, was also in the meeting.
“I will lead an objection to Georgia's electors on Jan. 6,” Hice, the representative from Georgia’s 10th district, announced on Twitter afterward.
Brooks, the representative for Alabama’s 5th district, said Monday night that about a dozen House Republicans are on board with the plan, The Associated Press reported.
(According to multiple news outlets, Trump has also privately mused with some advisers about startlingly undemocratic options such as trying to seize voting machines or even invoking military authority over the locally run elections. The White House has repeatedly said he is going through appropriate legal challenges.)
Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty President Donald Trump
The most likely plan appears to be through Congress, though the odds are so long as to be impossible.
When both chambers meet on Jan. 6 to count the electoral votes, any state’s results can be challenged if one member each from the House and the Senate agree in writing that they wish to debate that state’s count, according to the AP.
Then, lawmakers would separate into two chambers and discuss the issue before reconvening to vote — for or against — throwing out that state’s vote.
Both the House and the Senate would need to approve the move with a majority vote. (As Politico notes, such exceptions aren't rare, really: Democrats have objected to three presidential results since 2000.)
The Republican challenge, should it proceed, is almost certain to be futile: Democratic lawmakers hold the majority in the House and a number of GOP senators have recently both acknowledged Biden’s victory and advised against their colleagues continuing to support Trump’s complaints and challenges — wary of forcing a public vote in which Republicans would either have to side against the outgoing president or agree to overturn the will of the voters.
“Many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result. But our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on Jan. 20,” Sen. McConnell, 78, said last week. “The Electoral College has spoken, so today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.”
On Monday night, according to CBS News, Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of President Trump's most prominent congressional allies, told reporters that objecting to the Electoral College vote next month would “probably do more harm than good.”