But on Sunday night, Cotton said he won’t join a dozen other Republican senators in challenging Trump’s loss. The coalition, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), plans to object Wednesday when Congress meets to certify President-elect Biden’s electoral college victory.
Cotton said on Sunday that plan oversteps Congress’s largely ceremonial role, and warned that if the GOP prevailed, it “would essentially end presidential elections and place that power in the hands of whichever party controls Congress.”
“The Founders entrusted our elections chiefly to the states — not Congress,” Cotton said in a news release. “They entrusted the election of our president to the people, acting through the Electoral College — not Congress. And they entrusted the adjudication of election disputes to the courts — not Congress.”
Cotton, though, did continue backing the president’s baseless claims of widespread election fraud, and said he supported creating a commission to “study” the election results.
The Arkansas senator’s decision highlights the stark divide in the Republican Party over Trump’s continued attempts to remain in power, and separates Cotton, who is seen as a likely presidential contender in 2024, from other presumed challengers, including Cruz and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).
A spokesperson with the president’s campaign did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment early Monday.
Cruz’s group of GOP senators announced over the weekend that they would reject electors from some swing states won by Biden, calling for an “emergency 10-day audit” to investigate the president’s unsubstantiated fraud claims.
Although the challenge will delay Wednesday’s session, the move is highly unlikely to change the election results because the Democratic-led House would also have to reject Biden’s electors. After lawmakers count the electoral college votes declaring Biden the winner, Vice President Pence — who has also backed Cruz’s challenge — will formalize the president-elect’s win.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had urged GOP leaders to refrain from contesting the election results, and other Republicans including Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Ben Sasse (Neb.), have blasted Cruz’s move. Romney called it an “egregious ploy” threatening democracy and Sasse deemed it a “dangerous ploy.” On Sunday, Republican Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S. C.) called the move a “political dodge” that "has zero chance of becoming a reality.”
Cotton on Sunday said he shared Cruz’s aims, but believed the Republican senators would set “unwise precedents” by refusing to accept electors.
He argued that it would further embolden Democrats to abolish the electoral college, claiming that if Republicans decline to count electoral votes this time, Democrats could imitate the response in the future.
“Democrats could achieve their longstanding goal of eliminating the Electoral College in effect by refusing to count electoral votes in the future for a Republican president elect,” Cotton added.
He also suggested that it would motivate the left to push for standard election laws nationwide.
“Congress would take another big step toward federalizing election law, another longstanding Democratic priority that Republicans have consistently opposed,” he said.
And Cotton noted that the challenge wouldn’t change the election.
“Objecting to certified electoral votes won’t give him a second term,” said Cotton, referring to Trump. “It will only embolden those Democrats who want to erode further our system of constitutional government.”