A group of Republican lawmakers pressed ahead with plans to resist the certification by Congress of Joe Biden’s election victory, despite fierce criticism from both sides of politics that they were undermining democracy.
The rebellion, which is being cheered on by US president Donald Trump, includes at least 12 senators and as many as 140 members of the House, who are expected to vote against approving Mr Biden’s electoral college win on Wednesday during a normally routine joint session of Congress.
The effort, which is being led by Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican senator, is unlikely to overturn the US presidential result, given it is based on allegations of widespread voter fraud that have been roundly dismissed by state officials and a myriad of state and federal courts.
However, it could delay the congressional recognition of Mr Biden’s victory ahead of the January 20 inauguration. It could also further erode the incoming president’s legitimacy among conservative voters, given Mr Trump’s failure to concede defeat.
The opposition of a substantial number of Republican lawmakers to accepting Mr Biden’s move to the White House came at the start of a pivotal week in US politics.
Members of the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats, were on Sunday preparing to re-elect Nancy Pelosi as speaker for a new two-year term. Meanwhile, voters in Georgia prepared to cast their final ballots on Tuesday in two run-off Senate races that will determine control of the upper chamber of Congress and Mr Biden’s ability to enact his agenda.
Speaking on Sunday morning, the Republican objectors to Mr Biden’s victory insisted on the establishment of an independent commission that could report back on voter fraud allegations within 10 days. Speaking on Fox News, Mr Cruz said the US went into the election “deeply divided [and] deeply polarised” and “unprecedented” voter fraud allegations had produced a “distrust” in the result.
“I think we in Congress have an obligation to do something about that,” he said.
Ron Johnson, the Republican senator from Wisconsin, added on NBC: “We are not acting to thwart the democratic process. We’re acting to protect it. The fact of the matter is that we have an unsustainable state of affairs in this country where we have tens of millions of people that do not view this election result as legitimate.”
Their revolt was roundly attacked by Democrats, with Amy Klobuchar, the senator from Minnesota, calling it “nothing more than an attempt to subvert the will of the voters” in a tweet on Sunday. But it is not backed by Republican leaders in the Senate either, and some party members have criticised it in scathing terms.
“The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic,” warned Mitt Romney, the Republican senator from Utah, in a tweet on Saturday.
Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, added on Sunday that his colleagues had a “high bar to clear” in opposing Mr Biden’s certification.
“Proposing a commission at this late date — which has zero chance of becoming reality — is not effectively fighting for President Trump. It appears to be more of a political dodge than an effective remedy,” said Mr Graham in a tweet.
But Mr Trump on Sunday retweeted a call for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, the two Republican senators from Georgia facing a tricky run-off election on Tuesday, to join Mr Cruz’s effort, signalling that the president was still highly supportive of the effort.
Ms Loeffler told Fox News on Sunday she was “seriously looking” at joining the group. “We have to make sure that Georgia and all of Americans trust our voting process,” she said.