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What To Expect From Congress’ Electoral Vote Count Tomorrow


(L-R) Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) leave McConnell's office and walk to the Senate chamber

Tomorrow—Wednesday, January 6—is the day that Congress convenes to officially count the electoral votes from November’s presidential election. It’s the last step before Joe Biden’s inauguration as president and it’s supposed to be a mostly ceremonial event, as the results of that election have been settled for months at this point.

However, this year, a number of Republican lawmakers are still pretending like they aren’t settled, and have decided to whip up some performative outrage. Missouri senator Josh Hawley was the first to say he would oppose the certification of the votes, and about a dozen GOP senators followed suit, along with somewhere between two dozen and 140 rumored Republicans in the House.

As the Washington Post notes, there’s always some pageantry during this vote count. “It has become routine after recent elections for House lawmakers on the losing side to put up a symbolic fight over the results, which they can do under an 1880s law governing the process,” writes the paper. What’s unusual is that senators don’t usually join them.

To file an official objection, a member of both the House and the Senate have to lodge it together during the joint session. At that point, lawmakers split back up into their respective chambers and debate the objection for up to two hours.

Here’s how it’s supposed to play out:

—The two chambers will gather together to submit their states’ electoral college votes. Note that they’re just counting and confirming the votes, not certifying them, as that’s already been done.

—Going through the states alphabetically, Mike Pence, who is presiding over the count unless he decides to hand those duties off to a senator, will read each state’s vote count. He does not, despite what Trump has been tweeting, have the power to overturn those votes.

—After each state’s count is read, lawmakers will be able to submit a written objection to the electors’ votes. That’s when they split off to debate the objection. They then vote on which electors’ votes to count or dismiss. Then they come back together and do it again with the next state.

In order to accept the challenge to a state’s electors, both chambers have to vote to approve the objection. Given the Democrats’ control of the House, even if the Senate Republicans go full MAGA beyond just these twelve leading sycophants, that’s not going to happen. Even in the unlikely case of a tie, that tiebreaker goes to the state’s governor. And all the governors of states Trump and Republicans have contested have already certified their votes.

What Republicans will be successful in doing tomorrow is dragging out these proceedings for many, many hours. They will also probably put on a nice little performance for their Fox News base, making a big show out of how unfair it is that they have to accept the results of a valid election.

But while normally we could all be content in knowing there’s no risk of Republicans succeeding in doing anything but wasting time, we also know that nothing about this year or this administration has been normal.

Earlier today, Republicans in Pennsylvania set a dangerous precedent by refusing to seat an elected and already-certified Democratic freshman senator over objections to mail-in ballots. It was an extremely heated scene, during which the GOP-led state senate had the state’s lieutenant governor—the fantastic John Fetterman—removed from the chamber for refusing to recognize a motion that would have prevented the senator from being sworn in.

Realistically, there’s nothing Republicans in Congress can do tomorrow but throw a big tantrum. We also know that there’s very little, if anything at all, that they wouldn’t try in order to maintain power.

(via Washington Post, image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.