Josh Hawley Creates Nightmare Scenario for McConnell, GOP by Objecting to Biden Win Certification

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley's decision to object when Congress meets next week to tally the results of the presidential election will force Republican senators into the tricky position of having to publicly say whether they support President Donald Trump's baseless claims that he should have won instead of President-elect Joe Biden.

Hawley, thought to be a possible 2024 contender for the GOP presidential nomination, has hinted for weeks that he would raise an objection over the results from Pennsylvania and other battleground states that voted for Biden—forcing a lengthy debate over the election followed by a roll call vote. House Republicans already had announced plans to lodge an objection in the lower chamber, and Hawley formally announced his plans Wednesday to do the same in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had privately tried to discourage GOP senators from forcing a vote, as Trump remains politically popular among Republicans but the president has repeatedly pushed his allies to raise an objection. The Electoral College formally cast votes December 14. Trump has portrayed Congress as a last-ditch effort to override the electors.

Hawley, who has accused Facebook and Twitter of unfairly backing Biden, said he decided to force a vote so he would have an opportunity to highlight that "some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws."

Pennsylvania officials have repeatedly denied allegations that they skirted election laws, and Attorney General Josh Shapiro accused Hawley on Wednesday of plotting a "baseless attempt by Trump's enablers to undermine the will of the people."

"Pennsylvania's election was secure, legal & fair," Shapiro tweeted after Hawley's announcement. "Our electoral votes have been cast for Joe Biden & Kamala Harris. I will continue fighting these attacks on voting rights until Jan 20. Until then, the people should know that any senator making declarations about challenging Pennsylvania's election result is performing political theater for Donald Trump, not following any facts or laws."

Aside from their recorded votes that could put them on Trump's friend list or foe list and prompt an angry tweet or praise, lawmakers will each get up to five minutes to expound on their views of the election outcome—good or bad.

It will be only the third time in a century that the House and Senate will be forced to vote on whether they agree with a state's slate of electors. Two previous attempts to reject Electoral College votes—one in 1969 and one in 2005—overwhelmingly failed. For any to be thrown out, the Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled House would have to agree after two hours of debate, allowing every member to speak.

Trump has refused to concede the election and mounted unsuccessful legal challenges across multiple states that Biden won.

Asked about Trump's continued protests over the election outcome, McConnell told reporters earlier this month that he had no advice for the president.

"For me, on the basis of the way the system works, the decision by the Electoral College was determined," he said.

McConnell has privately spoken to Biden and publicly acknowledged Biden's win. McConnell's office didn't immediately respond to Newsweek's request Wednesday for comment on Hawley's decision.

Hawley defended his decision as being the "same practice Democrat members of Congress have in years past." He cited examples from 2005, when Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) and the late Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) forced the House and Senate to vote over whether to reject George W. Bush's win in Ohio, and a challenge by several members of the House in 2017. The Senate didn't vote in 2017 because no senator joined in the objection.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of California, defended Democrats in those symbolic rejections but dismissed Hawley's attempt.

"I have no doubt that on next Wednesday, a week from today, that Joe Biden will be confirmed by the acceptance of the vote of the Electoral College as the 46th president of the United States," she told reporters Wednesday.

Separately, in 1969 a Representative and Senator forced a vote in both chambers over a single North Carolina elector who switched his vote. That attempt also failed.

Jen Psaki, a Biden-Harris transition spokeswoman and incoming White House Press Secretary, dismissed "antics" that are still trying to overturn the election results.

"The American people spoke resoundingly in this election," she told reporters Wednesday, adding that the January 6 certification process "is merely a formality and should be treated as such."

Psaki noted then-Vice President Biden presided over the session for the certification of Trump as the winner four years ago.

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(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) at the U.S. Capitol on January 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty