Into a Stone-Faced Senate, Hawley Howls GOP’s First Challenge to Biden Win

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during an Oct. 12 hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Against the warning from top Republicans that such a challenge would go down “like a shot dog,” Senator Josh Hawley on Wednesday mounted the body’s first effort to unwind the Electoral College certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s November win.

A Missouri Republican, Hawley said he could not certify the results while there are concerns that Facebook and Twitter interfered in the 2020 election to support Biden. Hawley did not provide any evidence of such concerns, which he raised this morning along with questions about how Pennsylvania and others “failed to follow their own state election laws.”

“At the very least, Congress should investigate allegations of voter fraud and adopt measures to secure the integrity of our elections. But Congress has so far failed to act,” Hawley said in a statement Wednesday.

As the first lawmaker in the Senate to announce his objection formally, Hawley has set off the parliamentary process for Congress to debate Biden’s certification during a long anticipated joint session between the House and Senate on January 6. 

Just last week, however, Senate Majority Whip John Thune issued warning against any bid by his fellow Republicans in Congress who would entertain objections to results already determined by the American people and made official by the Electoral College.

“I think the thing to remember is, it’s not going anywhere,” said Thune, who ranks just one rung below the most powerful lawmaker in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I mean in the Senate, it would go down like a shot dog.

“I just don’t think it makes a lot of sense to put everybody through this when you know what the ultimate outcome is going to be,” Thune told CNN on Dec. 21.

Thune did not immediately return request for comment Wednesday. McConnell meanwhile has reportedly urged members of his caucus to avoid a dust-up on Jan. 6.

If Republicans force a challenge as Hawley has done today, it would force the Senate to vote against President Donald Trump — a prospect McConnell has proven loath to do. 

Nonetheless, a small group of House Republicans led by Alabama Representative Mo Brooks, a former district attorney first elected to the seat in 2011, have for weeks heralded objections to Biden’s victory.

Brooks and a few others like Georgia Representative Jody Hice have parroted Trump’s theories that the election was “stolen.”

The Justice Department — with its decision issued by Trump’s own appointees — found no fraud in the 2020 election. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the Homeland Security Department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the Elections Infrastructure Government Coordination Council also declared the Nov. 3 election “the most secure in American history,” finding “no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

Trump fired the head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Chris Krebs, five days after that announcement, going on to launch one failed legal pursuit after another in courts across a near dozen states.

Nearly 60 times and counting, claims of dead voters casting ballots and changing identities, or assertions of voter purges either never proven or held together with the most gossamer threads of legal theory, have failed in court. 

Trump’s legal team pressed their luck most recently at the U.S. Supreme Court, this time asking for hundreds of thousands of ballots to be discounted on an allegation that voters in Wisconsin used the Covid-19 pandemic —which has now killed over 330,000 Americans — to forgo voter ID requirements and cast bogus ballots.

The high court swatted away similar challenges from the Trump campaign, most recently, one from Texas. The nation now awaits a potential ruling from the justices on a challenge to mail-in ballots cast in Pennsylvania. Trump attorneys want new electors — Republican electors — to be appointed in Pennsylvania. Biden defeated Trump there by more than 70,000 votes.

Hawley’s addition on Wednesday to the small chorus of GOP voices singing Trump’s election reveries does little good for their bid to overturn Biden’s victory. At most, it is shaping up to distract from a forgone conclusion: Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Jan. 20. 

Brooks said this week he has about a dozen members in the House who would join him, but even with twice that number the prospect of overcoming the Democrat-controlled body is nil.

On Jan. 6, the House and Senate will convene together to certify that Biden earned more Electoral College votes than Trump, at 306 to 232. During the count, objections must be submitted in writing for consideration. Lawmakers then have two hours — and no more — to weigh the objections in private or with remarks on the floor. Then, each body casts its vote on whether to uphold the objection or move on. The only way an objection succeeds, however, is if both the House and Senate agree to it.

Representative Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, said in a phone interview that if Republican lawmakers opt to launch their delays, the length of it will depend on how many states are involved.

“There’s no indication of how many there will actually be,’ Raskin said. “I’m sure members seeking to ingratiate themselves to Donald Turmp will insist their state be included in this marathon charade.”

Regarding Hawley, Raskin said the senator has “no valid ground for objecting to any of the electors coming in or any of the electoral votes that came in.”

“More than 80 judges have considered all of these complaints and rejected them in more than 50 cases,” Raskin said. “This is the most litigated presidential election in American history, and that would include Bush v. Gore, and all of them except for one have ended with a complete repudiation of Republican claims.”

Trump’s sole win so far involves the curing of uncounted mail-in ballots from voters who failed to follow up with proof of ID in Pennsylvania.

Raskin, a constitutional scholar for more than 20 years, said Hawley’s decision “cuts against the basic principle of democracy,”

“Here, the people rule, and the people have spoken. Joe Biden got more than 7 million votes over President Trump and defeated him in the Electoral College — and with a margin there that Trump once described as a ‘landslide,’” the Maryland Democrat said.

Another blistering critique of election challenges came from Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

“Internal monologue,” Kinzinger wrote of Hawley on Twitter Wednesday afternoon. “‘I want to be President so I decided to try to get POTUS to tweet saying I’m great even though I know this isn’t going anywhere but hey… I’ll blame someone else when it fails.”

Senator Hawley did not return a request for comment.

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