As a shaky but determined Congress reconvened Wednesday night in the Capitol to complete their obligation to count and confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s win, the consensus was that the objectors would finish their debate over one state, Arizona — which was ongoing when the Capitol had to be evacuated — and then likely drop the rest. Without a concurring senator, any House GOP objection will immediately be discarded, and Congress could quickly count and confirm the electoral college votes that make Biden the next president.
“Count me out. Enough is enough,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump ally, said on the Senate floor. Graham had criticized the idea of an electoral commission to examine baseless claims of voting irregularities but until Wednesday been unclear about whether he supported these challenges. “ … When it’s over, it is over. And it is over,” he said. In the weeks after the election, Graham was one of the most vocal Senate Republicans encouraging Trump to fight his election loss.
“When I arrived in Washington this morning, I fully intended to object to the certification of the electoral votes,” said Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), who had just lost her election in a runoff. “However, the events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider. And I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors.”
A handful of Republican senators joined Loeffler in changing their positions, including Mike Braun of Indiana, Steve Daines of Montana, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and James Lankford of Oklahoma.
“Obviously, the commission that we have asked for is not going to happen,” Lankford said as the Senate reconvened, speaking of a commission to examine baseless election fraud claims that he and 10 other Republican senators had staked their objections on. Lankford was mid-speech arguing in favor of objecting to election results hours earlier when senators had to suddenly be evacuated. “And we’re headed tonight toward the certification of Joe Biden to be the president of the United States,” he said.
There was by no means a total retreat: Six Republican senators voted Wednesday night to object to Arizona’s legally certified electors, despite the fact that there is no evidence of fraud there.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) also indicated he would also object to Pennsylvania’s results, ensuring a long night after a harrowing day for Congress. Hawley continued to argue that Congress vote to override the will of voters and refuse to seat a state’s legitimate electors.
But he was forced into a much more defensive posture: “We do need an investigation into irregularities and fraud,” he said.
And compare the six Senate Republicans who voted not to confirm Arizona’s results to the 14 Republican senators who before Wednesday had committed to challenging that state’s and others.
Perhaps there is no clearer example of how the bottom has finally fallen out from under Trump in the Republican Senate than Loeffler.
On Monday, she stood next to the president on a campaign stage in Georgia. “I have an announcement, Georgia,” she said. “On January 6, I will object to the electoral college vote. That’s right. Thank you. We’re going to get this done.”
Two days later, she had officially lost her runoff. Hours after that, her safety and that of her colleagues was threatened by Trump supporters. And she was no longer in Trump’s camp on fighting against his election loss.