A last-ditch ploy for Congress to overturn President Donald Trump‘s loss at the ballot box is gaining steam among current and incoming House Republicans, an idea that has their GOP colleagues on the other side of the Capitol wincing.
“That’s a pretty wild idea,” Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), a leadership member, told Newsweek.
“Our country has to have confidence in the electoral process,” added Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). “It does not sound to me like that would add any credibility to our electoral process.”
The longshot approach would be ultimately symbolic and fail to change the results, given Congress’ political makeup. Still, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) plans to lead a group of conservatives in the House to formally contest the Electoral College’s certification of Joe Biden’s win on January 6.
It’s a move that could turn into a Trump loyalty test and force Republicans whether to side with the man whom they warn will continue to lead the party—even after he vacates the White House—or accept a Biden win.
But Brooks also needs a Republican in the Senate to formally contest the certification and for Congress to hold a vote—something he so far has been unsuccessful at achieving. He told Newsweek on Friday that he’s yet to have any conversations with Republican senators.
“I would hope that we would have Republican senators who have the courage and conviction in their beliefs to do the same thing Democratic senators have done,” Brooks said. “Every senator has to wrestle with their own conscience on how they want to defend their country.”
Brooks’ rhetoric about the election, which he labeled a “theft,” mirrored that of Trump and his allies who have sought to overturn the results in court, despite lacking any evidence. Publicly, two Congressmembers-elect—Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Barry Moore (Ala.)—have said they’ll back Brooks in the House. Privately, Brooks said the number who say they’ll support him is in the “double digits.”
Some GOP senators have not shut the door entirely on the notion, such as Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who said he needs to read up on the process more, or Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who said various election lawsuits need to first play out. But so far, no one has explicitly said it is even within the realm of possibility.
While many Republicans still refuse to concede Biden won the election, many have acknowledged that the effort to overturn the outcome will be over on December 14, when the Electoral College officially votes based on the states’ certified results. The idea of then contesting the outcome in Congress weeks later doesn’t sit well with many Senate Republicans, as leadership tries to shut down the potential maneuver.
“I can’t imagine that would ever happen,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said this week. “Somebody could, but I doubt that that goes anywhere.”
Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the No. 4 Republican, noted that past attempts by Democrats to have Congress contest the results have failed.
“You have to have senators join them. We’ll see,” Blunt said, declining to weigh in on whether he thought it could have an impact on the outcome.
“I haven’t heard of any senators talking about doing that,” Senator John Barrasso R-Wyo.), a leadership member, told Newsweek.
Brooks would be far from the first member of Congress to contest the Electoral College result, and he most certainly won’t be the last. In fact, since 2000, Democratic lawmakers have tried three times to take this route, but failed with both of George W. Bush‘s wins, as well as Trump’s.
Then-Vice President Joe Biden, who was president of the Senate and presided over the process, famously declared to House Democrats trying to contest the 2016 election that “it is over.”
Only when Democrats contested Bush’s second win were they successful in getting a senator—former Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)—to join the House-led endeavor.
Brooks remains undecided whether he would proceed with contesting the Electoral College certification, if no one from the Senate joins him. If he should choose to proceed without a Senate counterpart, his effort would be symbolic, as it would be dismissed and not receive a vote.
“I want to force a House floor vote and a Senate floor vote,” Brooks said, “where we will see who really wants to protect our American electoral system from voter fraud and election theft and who does not.”
Though Brooks said he has not discussed his plans with the White House or the president, Trump has taken notice, tweeting praise for the fifth-term lawmaker who just won re-election uncontested.
But if any potential 2024 hopefuls join Brooks from the Senate, such as Hawley or Cruz, it could elevate their platforms, particularly among Trump’s base.
“In my judgement, the evidence is overwhelming and compelling that, if the election count was limited to lawful votes cast by eligible American citizens, Donald Trump easily won the Electoral College and re-election to the presidency,” Brooks said.
Biden won the election with 306 Electoral College votes compared to Trump’s 232. The president-elect leads the popular vote by 4.4 percent, or more than 7 million votes.