President Donald Trump’s Republican allies in Congress will attempt on Wednesday to subvert millions of ballots that were cast by swing states voters, accepted by local and state election officials, certified by governors and affirmed by the courts in a last-ditch attempt to block the lawful election of former Vice President Joe Biden.
In Florida the question is: Will Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott join them?
As of Tuesday evening, the state’s two Republican leaders had yet to declare how they’ll vote when Congress meets Wednesday to certify the results of the Electoral College. At least a dozen senators are reportedly preparing to reject the electors from one or more of the closely contested swing states where Trump has embarked on a conspiratorial quest to overturn the November results.
Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis said Monday that Florida’s junior senator was “reviewing his options and will announce his decision at the appropriate time.” Rubio’s office declined to comment and instead pointed to a Politico report Friday in which the senior senator said he will address the issue “pretty thoroughly” on the day of the vote.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is leading a group of Republican senators who are demanding a federal investigation into the elections before Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20. Without one, Cruz and his followers are expected to object to the certification of the electors in Arizona, a state Biden won, according to the Washington Post. The results of the Arizona election were certified by the state’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
Rubio and Scott are facing pressure from Trump’s loyal Republican following in Florida, where the president now resides, to join the fight or risk a future political challenge. Rubio is up for re-election in 2022 while Scott is just two years into a six-year term. Both are considered leading contenders for their party’s presidential nominee in 2024 — unless Trump decides to run again.
At the behest of Trump’s political fixer and recently pardoned GOP operative Roger Stone, conservative activists rallied outside the homes of Rubio and Scott over the weekend.
Efforts by Trump to woo more Republicans to his cause have been complicated by his own desperate attempts to overturn a democratically held election. The Washington Post on Sunday published the audio of an hour-long phone call of Trump threatening Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, to “find” enough votes to overturn the election or face vague criminal consequences.
Neither Rubio or Scott have publicly addressed the phone call. Some congressional Democrats have called for a criminal investigation into Trump’s latest actions.
“Hearing this, how can GOP members allow this anti-democratic, seditious charade to continue?” U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, tweeted over the weekend.
On Tuesday, Trump falsely asserted on Twitter, “The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors” and multiple outlets reported that he was pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to intervene during Wednesday’s Senate proceedings. Pence’s role is ceremonially: As the Senate president, he counts the ballots that have been cast. Biden won the election with 306 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 232.
Meanwhile, Republicans in the House of Representatives also are planning a coordinated objection to the election results, with many echoing Trump’s unsubstantiated and baseless claims about voting fraud. At least six Florida Republicans have said they support the effort: Reps. Matt Gaetz, Byron Donald, John Rutherford, Bill Posey, Brian Mast and Scott Franklin. Another Florida lawmaker, Rep. Greg Steube of Sarasota, was “planning on objecting to the electoral votes of Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan,” his office said late Tuesday.
Franklin, a Lakeland Republican who was elected to Congress in November to a seat that covers parts of Hillsborough County, cited “a lack of transparency in counting votes in several states that merit closer scrutiny” as his reason for challenging the results. He did not offer more specifics. Courts throughout the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have rejected lawsuits from Trump and his allies that have alleged, without evidence, widespread irregularities in the casting and counting of ballots.
Two Tampa Bay area Republicans, Reps. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor and Vern Buchanan of Sarasota, have yet to say how they intend to vote. Bilirakis’ office did not respond to repeated requests for comment. In a statement, Buchanan said he intended to “follow Wednesday’s debate in Congress” mindful of the events of 2005, when some Democratic lawmakers objected to some of President George W. Bush’s electors.
In December, Bilirakis and Steube joined more than 100 of their House colleagues in supporting a Texas lawsuit asking the Supreme Court to overturn the election results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Buchanan was not among them.
There is little hope for Trump in the U.S. House, where Republicans are in the minority. His Senate fight does not have the support of Republican leadership and several GOP senators.
The Constitution requires the House and Senate to count the electoral votes from every state before the inauguration of the next president. It’s been a ceremonial event, but Trump’s post-election crusade has put an unexpected emphasis on the pro forma affair. Thousands of Trump supporters are expected to descend on Washington, D.C. to protest the count.