“We have a superior role under the Constitution than the Supreme Court does, than any federal court judge does, than any state court judge does…What we say, goes. That’s the final verdict.”
(Mo Brooks, a staunch Trumpist, about the importance of January 6)
As the electoral college met in their respective states on Monday and voted for the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden emerged victorious by bagging 306 votes. The good news for democracy is that no faithless elector came forward, and everyone voted along the party line.
This results in moving Biden one step closer to the White House. As Donald Trump spends his last days in the oval office, the Biden transition process is going in full flow.
However, the one last thing that needs to be done before making Biden’s win official is the ratification of the electoral college votes by the new Congress on January 6, 2021. Biden is expected to win the presidency, but considering the weird ambitions of Donald Trump, some stones will be laid during this rather ceremonial gathering on January 6.
Some Republicans, especially Mo Brooks, have already hinted that he will challenge the electoral results of Georgia and Pennsylvania in the Congressional gathering. This indication is more than enough to realize that many Republicans can try to interrupt the normal proceedings of Congress on January 6. However, the good news for Joe Biden is that there are no major obstacles in his way to be the president, and Republicans, once again, are bound to bite the dust.
The Constitution of the United States requires that the official announcement of the new president is made via the most powerful branch of the government, i.e., Congress. As Congress assembles to announce the next president, the incumbent vice-president has to announce the winner of the November elections. So, this time, Mike Pence will speak the words loudly that will officiate the election win of Joe Biden.
But it will not come directly. Before the announcement of the VP, Congress has to ratify the electoral college votes.
What is the final step for Biden in becoming the president, and how can the Republicans interrupt it? Let’s dig deep and discover more.
The Congressional Overturn: What Republicans are Pursuing Now
On December 14, when the electoral college met in their respective states, each state issued the “certificate of ascertainment,” after the vote counting, to officially assign the electoral votes to the winning candidate.
Pence will open the certificates, check them, and send them to the tellers assigned to announce the tallies one by one. When Biden reaches the magical number of 270 votes during this tally process, Pence has to announce him as the next president of the United States.
According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the laws allow “members to object to the returns from any individual state as they are announced.”
It means that even if a legislator does not belong to one specific state, he or she can object to the results of the other states.
If no legislators object, Pence will move on to declare Biden as the winner. However, if at least one member from each chamber objects to the results in writing, the process will be interrupted, and the matter will move to the discussion in Congress. CRS says that “Objections to individual state returns must be made in writing by at least one Member each of the Senate and House of Representatives.”
If the Republicans successfully initiate the process at this stage, CRS says that “the joint session recesses and the two houses separate and debate the question in their respective chambers for a maximum of two hours… and no member of either house may speak for more than five minutes.”
After that, “The two houses then vote separately to accept or reject the objection,” as suggested by the CRS. If both the houses vote and affirm the objection by a simple majority, the electoral college votes in the discussion will be declared null and void by the Congress.
Putting Stones in Biden’s Way: Republicans on a Mission for January 6
It is pertinent to note here that this time, this hindrance can be created at an unprecedented level to delay the process. Up until now, almost 26 Republican Congressmen have congratulated Biden, and the rest of them can propagate these types of undue hindrances on January 6.
It is also important that the recently rejected lawsuit of Texas was supported by more than 125 Republicans who believe that the Biden win is not justified.
These facts suggest that the Republican’s congressional leadership can also pursue this strategy to be in the good books of Donald Trump, who is expected to have a strong influence on the Republican party as he eyes the 2024 elections. Not only this, but the Republican Congressmen can also try to avoid the wrath of Donald Trump, who is in full swing to fire anyone objecting to his personal opinion these days.
The “Madness” of Congressional Overturn
Amid all of this, the attempt seems highly unlikely as the newly elected House has a Democratic majority. The Senate is dominated by Trump and Republicans, yet the Senate is also highly improbable to rectify these objections. This is because moderate Republicans have already started to deny the concept of stealing the American mandate.
Mitt Romney was the first Republican Senator who opposed this Congressional overturn. Romney came forward even before the electoral college vote and said,
“We have a process…Recounts are appropriate. Going to the court is appropriate. Pursuing every legal avenue is appropriate. But trying to get electors not to do what the people voted to do is madness.”
Political experts also believe that such a thing is highly improbable. While the matter can be initiated by the Republican legislatures, a Congressional vote by either of the chambers does not stand a chance.
Congressional Overturn: A Historical Perspective
It is also important to note that the initiation of the process by the legislatures will not be the first of its type. It also happened following the last election when the legislatures met to certify the victory of Donald Trump in early January 2017.
Sheila Jackson Lee and Barbara Lee led a team of the Democrats to raise voices against the certification of electoral votes to Donald Trump back then but failed in their attempt.
Similarly, it also happened in 1968 and 2004, but the objection was not entertained by Congress.
The clause of the Congressional overturn just became enacted after the highly controversial election of 1876, and since then, it has never overturned any electoral college result. It is often considered a formality in the electoral process, as most people don’t even know that it exists.
By grabbing 306 electoral votes on December 14 with no faithless electors, Joe Biden is all set to become the president. However, the last step has to be fulfilled, and sooner or later, it will pass too.
Motivating the faithless electors was the last chance of Donald Trump, and things have gone way beyond the hands of the president. Expecting any miracle on January 6 is just a pipe dream.
Although Trump has shattered the Republican party successfully, now the most he can do is to spend his last days in the Oval Office, where he is destroying America as well. After that, he may end up facing numerous lawsuits hanging over him, which he escaped due to his presidential powers in his tenure.