President Donald Trump is running out of options for overturning his election loss to Joe Biden, and perhaps his last, best hope is pressuring one of his Republican allies in Congress to take drastic action.
The Electoral College officially votes for the president Dec. 14, but individual members of the House and Senate may legally challenge the results from the floor before Congress certifies the results a few weeks later — and several GOP lawmakers and aides say they’re considering that rarely used maneuver, reported Politico.
“Nothing is off the table,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL).
Gaetz says Democrats tried the same maneuver in January 2017, when a handful of House members took that procedural step before their efforts collapsed during a joint session of Congress presided over by Biden, who was then the outgoing vice president.
Vice President Mike Pence will serve the same role in this proceeding next month, perhaps setting up an awkward scenario if Trump still refuses to deny his plainly obvious loss.
Voters picked 306 electors for Biden and 232 for Trump, and they will cast their formal votes in two weeks, and the Electoral Count Act passed in 1887 outlines the procedure for Congress to officially certify the election in a joint session at 1 p.m. on Jan. 6.
That same federal law also gives lawmakers the power to challenge the results, and one House member and one senator could band together to challenge entire slates of electors — although they must provide an explanation in writing.
Once that happens, the House and Senate meet in their own chambers to debate the outcome for up to two hours before voting, and this process could play out for multiple states, because each state’s electors are certified separately.
Some of the president’s allies are already urging congressional Republicans to take this action, and several incoming GOP lawmakers, such as Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, agree with Trump’s lies about election fraud.
Some GOP state legislators in Pennsylvania filed a resolution disputing their state’s election results, and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), who challenged the state’s mail-in voting system in court and lost, could take that fight to Congress.
Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) has signaled that he may challenge the election results, and a chief of staff to another GOP lawmaker said his boss may do so.
Politico also reported that Arizona Reps. Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs and David Schweikert may be open to challenging the president’s election loss.
Aides to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy declined to comment, although the California Republican has previously backed Trump’s effort to overturn his loss.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has raised questions about the election’s legitimacy, based on Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems unlikely to favor a potentially toxic vote on the challenge.
If all these long-shot scenarios break for Trump and the Senate upholds challenges to some slates of electors, that would put the GOP-majority Senate at odds with the Democratic-majority House.
Federal law gives the governors of those states the power to resolve that unprecedented dispute, but the Constitution expressly grants state legislatures the authority to appoint presidential electors.
That’s the argument Trump’s legal team has pushed to encourage GOP state legislatures to overturn the will of the voters, but Pennsylvania’s official response to that claim argues that the framers never intended to give legislators the power to decide an election on their own.