Senior Republicans are crediting Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton’s surprise break with President Trump for preventing a flood of his GOP colleagues from objecting to the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.
Six Senate Republicans objected to certifying Biden’s defeat of Trump in Arizona, and seven objected to certifying his win in Pennsylvania. But the votes cast by Senate Republicans at the president’s behest as part of a brazen attempt to overturn the 2020 election might have numbered several more without Cotton’s intervention, Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and John Barrasso of Wyoming, the Nos. 2 and 3 ranking Senate Republicans, told the Washington Examiner.
“He played a very important role, especially as people were starting to waver a little bit or reevaluate their position,” said Thune, the majority whip.
“His statement was very strong,” added Barrasso, the GOP conference chairman. “It came at a critical moment.”
Cotton determined in mid-December that there was no basis in the Constitution for Congress to reject state-certified Electoral College votes. Originally, the senator planned to go public with his plans to affirm Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, just ahead of the House and Senate convening in a joint session to accept the outcome of the Nov. 3 election. Cotton was planning to delay to avoid GOP infighting ahead of critical Senate runoff elections in Georgia, which were set for Jan. 5.
But Cotton moved up his timeline to Jan. 3 after Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a potential 2024 contender, and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who has also been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate, joined Trump and announced plans to object to the outcome of the Nov. 3 election in up to six states. He sought to prevent a bandwagon of GOP objections, which he believed would cause Senate Republicans, and the party generally, severe political damage.
Republican leaders lobbied the conference for weeks against objecting to Biden’s Electoral College victory, which Trump saw as central to his strategy to hold on to the White House. As a staunch conservative and close Trump ally, Cotton, who also harbors 2024 ambitions, carried more weight. His unequivocal opposition provided political cover to Senate Republicans who wanted to vote to certify but were feeling political pressure from constituents because of Cruz and Hawley.
“He added tremendous validation to the argument many of us were making,” Thune said. “He made it more comfortable for people to land on that position.”
In the immediate weeks after the Nov. 3 election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky deferred to Trump’s claims that the election was stolen as part of a broad conspiracy to deny him a second term, giving time for him to wage legal challenges. None were successful. Once the Electoral College voted on Dec. 14, McConnell congratulated Biden on his victory and began referring to him as the president-elect.
The president refused to back down, continuing to push claims that the election was fraudulent.
Trump demanded congressional Republicans object to the certification of Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College victory, a process considered a formality, despite the fact that the objections were doomed to fail in a Democratic-controlled House and nearly evenly divided Senate. Failing that, the president said Vice President Mike Pence should unilaterally reject the electoral votes, if not declare them for Trump, even though he had no constitutional authority to do so.
Millions of Republican voters nonetheless believed Trump. Prior to the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters in a bid to derail Congress from certifying Biden the winner, Thune and Barrasso said Senate Republicans’ phone lines and email inboxes were jammed. Grassroots Trump backers, they said, were demanding that they join Cruz and Hawley.
“Those were the calls that we were getting — that President Trump would remain in the White House and that Joe Biden would never be inaugurated,” Barrasso said.
In the House, a majority of Republicans, more than 100, objected to Biden’s wins in Arizona and Pennsylvania. House Republicans tried to force objection votes against electoral votes from several more states. Those efforts failed when Senate Republicans refused to go along.
Source: Washington Examiner: Republican leaders say Tom Cotton halted landslide of GOP objections in Senate