At least a dozen Republican senators will object to the certification of Electoral College votes next week as part of a last-minute attempt to overturn the results of November’s election before Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th US president on January 20.
On Saturday, seven Republican senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and James Lankford of Oklahoma, as well as four senators-elect, said in a joint statement that they would object to the process of counting and certifying the Electoral College votes in Congress.
Citing unsubstantiated reports of widespread voter fraud, the senators said they would call for an electoral commission “to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states”.
Josh Hawley, the Republican senator from Missouri, said last week that he would object to the Electoral College certification process, in a statement that sparked outrage from many fellow Republicans.
Electors gathered in state capitals and the District of Columbia last month to formally select Mr Biden as the US president-elect, and their ballots are set to be counted and certified by both houses of Congress on Wednesday. Mr Biden received over 7m more votes than Donald Trump on November 3, and 306 electoral votes to Mr Trump’s 232.
But Mr Trump and his allies have repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that the election was rigged.
“Voter fraud has posed a persistent challenge in our elections, although its breadth and scope are disputed,” the senators said in their statement on Saturday. “By any measure, the allegations of fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election exceed any in our lifetimes.”
The senators’ statement came just hours after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought against Mike Pence by Republican House member Louie Gohmert, intended to overturn the election result.
By objecting to the certification process, the senators are breaking with Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican, who last month congratulated Mr Biden on his victory.
Several other Republicans have distanced themselves from their colleagues’ efforts to overturn the election results, and accused lawmakers of being blindly loyal to the president in order to curry favour with his supporters ahead of their own possible presidential bids in 2024 and beyond.
Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska, published a scathing open letter last week saying: “The president and his allies are playing with fire.”
Mr Sasse compared colleagues objecting to the certification process to “arsonists”, adding: “Let’s be clear what is happening here: we have a bunch of ambitious politicians who think there’s a quick way to tap into the president’s populist base without doing any real, long-term damage.”
While new members of Congress will be sworn in on Sunday, it remains unclear whether Republicans will continue to control the Senate. The balance of power in the upper chamber will be determined by two run-off races being held on Tuesday in Georgia, where incumbent Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are facing Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.