Senate Republicans seeking to avoid messy fight over Electoral College


Senate Republicans say Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will reach out to Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville (Ala.) in an attempt to avoid a messy floor fight next month over finalizing the results of the Electoral College vote.

Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) said GOP leaders will tell Tuberville that voting to suspend the tally of the Electoral College vote next month will be a futile — and politically damaging — move.

“Ultimately every senator will have to make their own decision about that but I think there will be people, yeah, reaching out him just to kind of find out” what he’s going to do, Thune said of Tuberville’s intentions about the Electoral College tally on Jan. 6.

“If nothing else, we need to kind of know the plan,” he added. “We’ll see. He’s made some public statements” about objecting to the vote.

“I’m hoping in the end that all senators will conclude that this election needs to be over with and it’s time to move on,” he said.

President Trump is encouraging Tuberville, who beat former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) in the Alabama Republican primary with Trump’s support, to contest the electoral vote tally when Congress convenes in a joint session next month.

Trump said in a radio interview over the weekend that he spoke to Tuberville about challenging the vote count and the incoming senator appeared enthusiastic about the idea.

“He’s so excited,” Trump said, adding that Tuberville is grateful for the president’s support during the election. “He said, ‘You made me the most popular politician in the United States.’ He said, ‘I can’t believe it.’ He’s great. Great senator.”

One Republican senator said he expects McConnell to reach out to Tuberville to persuade him that forcing a Senate debate over the legitimacy of any state’s electoral votes is not a good idea.

“I’m sure the leader’s going to reach out and talk to him,” said the senior lawmaker of the expectation that McConnell will try to step in to avoid a messy floor fight over the election results.

“The question is will [Tuberville] listen because his whole election was predicated on Trump not liking Sessions,” the senator added. “From a cold-blooded standpoint … if Trump asks him, I assume he would probably do it because he would see no downside.”

Tuberville defeated Sessions, who represented Alabama in the Senate for 20 years before leaving Congress to serve as Trump’s attorney general, in the July primary thanks largely to Trump’s backing.

Trump endorsed Tuberville on Twitter in March as “a REAL LEADER who will never let MAGA/KAG, or our Country, down!”

McConnell, Thune and Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) have all advised GOP senators not to contest the electoral vote next month.

“I haven’t talked to him about it personally but I’d be shocked if somebody hasn’t talked to him,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas,), an adviser to the Senate GOP leadership.

“It’s basically going through the motions,” Cornyn said of objecting to the Electoral College tally when there’s no chance of reversing the results. “It’s a futile exercise.”

“I hope no senator will decide to do that,” he said before adding that there’s no way GOP leaders can be sure of what happens next month.

“Everybody up here is a free agent,” he said

Election officials in states around the country have already certified the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election and Trump’s legal team has failed to provide evidence to back up his claims of widespread voter fraud, which courts have resoundingly rejected.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) plans to contest Biden’s victory when the House meets on Jan. 6 to consider the Electoral College votes. A number of other House Republicans have said they will join Brooks, but he needs one senator to do so to force a debate and vote in both chambers.

If any senator signs onto an objection by a House member to reported electoral votes of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin or any other swing state, it would suspend the joint session and force each chamber to separately debate and vote on the issue.

McConnell warned Senate Republican colleagues during a Dec. 15 conference call that objecting to counting certain states’ electoral votes on Jan. 6 would be a political mistake.

He said it would be politically damaging to Republican senators up for reelection to cast votes on such a divisive topic, according to senators who participated in the discussion.

Senators who vote to dismiss the objection face Trump’s wrath, which could dampen support from Trump loyalists in future elections.

Trump in recent days has vented his frustration with Senate Republicans for not joining his effort to contest the election.

“Mitch, 75,000 VOTES, a record for a sitting President (by a lot). Too soon to give up,” he tweeted at McConnell. “The Republican Party must finally learn to fight. People are angry!”

On Tuesday, Trump threatened Thune with a primary challenge in 2022 for urging fellow Republicans not to object to the Electoral College tally.

“Republicans in the Senate so quickly forget. Right now they would be down 8 seats without my backing them in the last Election. RINO John Thune, 'Mitch’s boy', should just let it play out. South Dakota doesn’t like weakness. He will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!!” Trump tweeted.

Senators who vote to support efforts to throw out the electoral votes of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin or other states, face backlash as well.  

Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) — if she wins a runoff on Jan. 5 — and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) are up for reelection in 2022 in states facing unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.

Republicans also have to defend retiring Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R) seat in Pennsylvania. Toomey has dismissed Trump’s claims of voter fraud in his home state, citing a lack of evidence.

Thune said the GOP leadership wants to “encourage all of our members — new members included — that we got a lot of work ahead of us and that rehashing this takes a lot of time and energy and political capital that could best be used working on an agenda for next year.”

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