Eleven Senate Republicans on Saturday announced that they will vote for objections to the Electoral College results Wednesday, when Congress convenes in a joint session to formally count the vote.
GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Ron Johnson (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Steve Daines (Mont.), John Kennedy (La.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and Mike Braun (Ind.) and Sens.-elect Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), Roger Marshall (Kan.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.) and Tommy Tuberville (Ala.) said in a joint statement that they will vote against accepting the election results until there is a 10-day audit.
"Congress should immediately appoint an Electoral Commission, with full investigatory and fact-finding authority, to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states," they said. "Once completed, individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed.
"Accordingly, we intend to vote on Jan. 6 to reject the electors from disputed states as not 'regularly given' and 'lawfully certified' (the statutory requisite), unless and until that emergency 10-day audit is completed," they added.
The senators didn't say in their joint statement if they plan to object to the results from specific states, how they would divvy up those objections or if they would just vote in support of challenges to the Electoral College results if they reach the Senate.
The group's announcement means that at least a dozen GOP senators, or almost a quarter of the caucus, will challenge the election results Wednesday. GOP Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) was the first senator to announce he would be joining a band of House conservatives to force a debate and vote on the Electoral College results.
Cruz, like Hawley, is considered to be a potential 2024 White House contender. Saturday's letter came together after Cruz pitched the idea to his colleagues and the Texas senator was spotted huddling with some of the eventual signers during a rare New Year's session of the Senate.
President Trump, who has endorsed efforts to challenge the election results in Congress, has claimed that the election was "rigged" or that there was widespread voter fraud. And the 11 senators, in their joint statement, alleged that the 2020 election included "unprecedented allegations of voter fraud."
Dozens of attempts by Trump's legal team to challenge the results in key states have been dismissed by the courts and election experts have repeatedly rejected claims of widespread voter fraud. Then-Attorney General William Barr also said last month that his department had found no widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the election.
The objection on Jan. 6 will not change President-elect Joe Biden's win, but it is putting GOP incumbents up for reelection in 2022 in a political bind because they will have to pick between supporting claims of fraud, which many of them have spoken out against, or voting against the president and potentially fueling a primary challenge.
If an objection has the support of a member of the House and a member of the Senate, the two chambers separate and debate it for up to two hours. Both the House and Senate would then vote on whether to uphold the objection, which would require a majority in both chambers to be successful.
Some GOP lawmakers have estimated that more than 100 House Republicans could support challenging the election results on Wednesday.
Braun, one of the 11 senators who said Saturday that he would support challenging the results, previously predicted the effort wouldn't go anywhere in Congress and on Friday compared it to a "protest vote."
"In my opinion there’s zero chance that anything will come from it. The House is not going to overturn and I don’t think you’ll even get close in the Senate," he said on Friday.
Braun and the other 10 Republicans in their joint statement on Saturday acknowledged that their efforts would ultimately fall short.
"We are not naïve. We fully expect most if not all Democrats, and perhaps more than a few Republicans, to vote otherwise," they said. "A fair and credible audit — conducted expeditiously and completed well before Jan. 20 — would dramatically improve Americans' faith in our electoral process and would significantly enhance the legitimacy of whoever becomes our next President."
The decision to support challenging the election results comes even as GOP leaders and several of their colleagues have publicly dismissed the effort, underscoring frustration within the caucus.
"I don’t think anybody is anxious to do this, maybe with a few exceptions, obviously, but I think that, you know, now that we're locked into doing it, we’ll give air to the objections, and people can have their day in court, and we’ll hear everybody out, and then we’ll vote," said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), asked about frustration from GOP senators. "But like I said, in the end, I don’t think it changes anything."
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), in an open letter to constituents, accused the lawmakers of trying to win over the president's supporters, adding, "Adults don’t point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government."
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) added that objecting during the Wednesday joint session "continues to spread the false rumor that somehow the election was stolen."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not publicly weighed in on decisions by GOP senators to object to the election results. But he and other top Senate Republicans urged the caucus during a conference call last month to not object, warning that it would be a tough vote for in-cycle senators that would not change the election result.
McConnell, during a separate call on Thursday, told Republican senators that he viewed the vote on the election results as the most important vote he has taken during his decades in Congress.