Sen. Josh Hawley on Wednesday pledged to challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania and possibly other states on Jan. 6, when Congress is set to certify the results of the 2020 election.
The Missouri Republican’s announcement guarantees that both chambers will be forced to debate the results of at least one state and vote on whether to accept Biden’s victory, a process that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had urged Republicans to avoid, despite pressure from President Donald Trump, who is urging Republicans to overturn the democratic results.
Though Hawley’s challenge will have no bearing on the ultimate outcome of the election — numerous GOP senators have accepted Biden as president-elect — it will delay the certification of Biden’s victory and force every member of the House and Senate on the record affirming Biden’s win.
Prior to Hawley’s pronouncement, all eyes had been on Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who had signaled his willingness to support a challenge to Biden’s victory. Trump had praised Tuberville and blasted other Republicans as “weak,” threatening to end the political career of Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who told reporters that any challenges were doomed to defeat.
The traditional rules of the Jan. 6 session — a joint meeting of the House and Senate — require a single House member and senator to join together to lodge a challenge. If they do, the branches are required to separate and debate the challenge before resuming the joint session.
Dozens of House Republicans have already pledged to challenge the results but had yet to secure unequivocal support from a senator.
The rules that govern those challenges are due to be adopted on Jan. 3. But at least some Republicans have endorsed a legal effort to scrap the rules altogether and empower Vice President Mike Pence, who will preside over the session, to unilaterally introduce electors backing Trump.
House Democrats have challenged the results of the 2000, 2004 and 2016 elections, but only after the 2004 election did a senator — California’s Barbara Boxer — join in the challenge. That year, Democrats objected to Ohio’s electoral votes, which forced a two-hour debate and was ultimately defeated by a wide margin.
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