On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, Congress will certify the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. However, one major roadblock stands in the way of this largely ceremonial task: a group of Republicans pledging to object to the results.
The process of electing the President and Vice President has seemingly been completed. On November 3, 2020, Americans headed to the ballot box in record numbers and gave Joe Biden and Kamala Harris a mandate to govern. A month later, on December 14, the Electoral College affirmed the Biden-Harris victory by a vote of 306 to 232. However, there is still one final step before Biden and Harris can be inaugurated on January 20, 2021.
Per Amendment XII to the U.S. Constitution, the Vice President is responsible for receiving and counting the votes of the Electoral College in the presence of Congress. For example, then-Vice President Joe Biden announced the election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence in January 2017 before Congress. This final step in the 2020 election is scheduled for January 6, 2021.
During the meeting of both the House of Representatives and the Senate to count the Electoral College votes, members of Congress can object to the inclusion of certain electors. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and a swath of other Republicans say they will object to President-elect Biden’s win in Pennsylvania and other states.
Objections are not totally abnormal. In both 2001 and 2005, Democrats objected to the results of Florida and Ohio. However, these attempts were not nearly as potent as Hawley’s crusade of 2021. In 2001 and 2005, both attempts had little support— even among partisans. However, Hawley’s planned obstruction already has the potential backing of 140 congressional Republicans, according to CNN.
This begs the question: will this change anything?
No. No, it will not.
When Hawley and other Republicans, like Reps. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), and Jeff Van Drew (R-N. J.), formally object to the certificates of the vote in writing; Congress will enter periods of debate of up to 2 hours per objection. Following the debate, each chamber will vote on whether or not to agree to the objection.
The only issue with this plan? There is no conceivable method in which it works. Heading into 2021, Democrats control the House of Representatives, and enough Republican Senators accept Biden’s victory to block an acceptance of the objections in the Senate. Sometime on January 6– whether 4 p.m. or 11 p.m.— Vice President Mike Pence (R-Ind.) will declare Joe Biden and Kamala Harris the next President and Vice President of the United States.
Despite the impossibility of a vote on the Electoral College being able to alter the already-certain outcome, that is not to say the inaugural week of the incoming 117th Congress will be without drama. On Sunday, January 3, members of the House of Representatives will elect the Speaker of the House. While Democrats do maintain a narrow majority in the chamber, there are enough potential defectors to prevent Nancy Pelosi from being re-elected. This may cause the first multi-ballot speakership election in roughly a century. And then, Tuesday, January 5, will see two runoff elections in Georgia determine control of the United States Senate.
Regardless of the chaos that is due to ensue this Wednesday, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been elected to the highest offices in the United States. On January 20, they will take their Oaths of Office and make history together. However, the fact that Sen. Hawley, Rep. Brooks, and others have, in theory, the ability to throw out the mandate of the people over nothing more than partisan bickering is a horrifying truth and highlights the systemic flaws in the government. Furthermore, this inconvenient truth highlights that even monumental electoral figures cannot stop ugly players in politics from trying to usurp the people’s will. It highlights the need of every able citizen to vote and stand for their rights given under a democratic republic before that sacred ballot is stripped of significance.
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