President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday may have moved a day closer to occupying the White House, but Republicans in Congress moved no closer to openly accepting that fact.
In the House, a backbench Republican moved to rebuke GOP colleagues who might suggest Trump “concede prematurely.” In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) again declined to recognize Biden as president-elect. And during a meeting on inauguration preparations, GOP officials voted against recognizing that Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris would, in fact, be the people being inaugurated on Jan. 20.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), who put the question to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, called the gesture “astounding” in a statement Tuesday.
“Their continued deference to President Trump’s post-election temper tantrums threatens our democracy and undermines faith in our system of elections,” Hoyer said. Spokesmen for McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declined to comment on their no votes, referring questions to the joint committee.
Biden won the election with 306 electoral college votes to Trump’s 232, and he leads the national popular vote by more than 7 million. Trump, who has refused to concede, has repeatedly pushed baseless claims and outright falsehoods, insisting that the election was rigged.
Attorney General William P. Barr said last week that the Justice Department had found no evidence of voting fraud that could have changed the outcome of the election, and the courts, most notably the Supreme Court on Tuesday, have rebuffed the dozens of legal challenges mounted by the Trump campaign and its allies. Presidential electors will cast their votes next Monday, finalizing the national results.
But with Trump engaged in a scorched-earth effort to reverse his defeat — one that has included not only ill-fated lawsuits and conspiratorial tweets, but also personal phone calls by Trump to state legislators and governors — most Republicans are more concerned with maintaining their loyalty to the outgoing president than preparing for the peaceful transfer of power to the incoming president.
Speaking on a House GOP conference call Tuesday morning, Rep. Alex X. Mooney (R-W.Va.) moved to condemn GOP colleagues who refuse to back Trump’s efforts to challenge the election and pressure him “to concede prematurely,” sparking a tense debate.
Mooney’s resolution, titled “Counting Every Legal Vote,” offers support for Trump’s post-election efforts to question the results in key states he lost as well as his “efforts to investigate and punish election fraud.” It also “condemns any member who calls upon Trump to concede prematurely before these investigations are complete.”
“I call on my fellow colleagues in the House GOP Conference to join me in sending a strong, united message of support for President Trump,” Mooney said in a statement Tuesday.
His proposal comes days after The Washington Post surveyed all 249 congressional Republicans about whether they recognize Biden as president-elect. Only 26 lawmakers, 15 of them in the House, acknowledged Biden’s victory, a reflection of the GOP loyalty to the lame-duck president, who still has a firm grip on the party.
According to a House Republican official who monitored the call, Mooney did not mention The Post survey and made clear that his resolution was not meant to rebuke any particular lawmaker. But his effort won support from several fellow members of the House Freedom Caucus, a cadre of the most loyal Trump supporters in Congress that has pressed state officials for dramatic interventions in the election process.
Mooney’s resolution would be referred to committee under party rules, meaning it might not come up for a vote before the end of the 116th Congress, said the GOP official who monitored the call, speaking on the condition of anonymity to comment frankly. Congress could break for the year as soon as next week.
Several lawmakers spoke up against the resolution during Tuesday’s call, arguing that it was improper for the conference to condemn lawmakers for airing their views.
Among them was Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), who has been one of the few elected Republicans on Capitol Hill to push back on Trump’s unfounded claims of mass voter fraud.
“This is America,” Kinzinger said, according to a spokeswoman.
Also opposing the resolution was Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), a member of the centrist Problem Solvers Caucus, who also has acknowledged Biden as president-elect. “It’s not the job of the conference to tell members how to think or what to say,” Gonzalez said, a spokeswoman confirmed.
Later in the morning, the top three Republicans on the inaugural committee — McConnell, McCarthy and Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.) — voted against Hoyer’s resolution effectively recognizing Biden as president-elect. Hoyer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) backed the resolution.
Said Blunt in a statement, “It is not the job of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies to get ahead of the electoral process and decide who we are inaugurating.” He added that the panel is “facing the challenge of planning safe Inaugural Ceremonies during a global pandemic” and should “focus on the task at hand.”
Asked later in the day about the election results, McConnell again dodged, despite having referred to the “new administration” a week prior.
“This has become a weekly ritual,” he said at the weekly GOP news conference. “The electoral college is going to meet on the 14th and cast a vote, and we’re going to have a swearing in of the next president on the 20th of January.”
Under federal law, Congress will meet in a Jan. 6 joint session to accept the votes of the electoral college. Any lawmaker can join with a companion from the other chamber to raise an objection to any state’s votes, prompting a debate and votes in each chamber on whether to accept the challenge.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) last week announced plans to challenge the electoral college vote, and Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said in an interview Monday that he will dispute his state’s electors. So far, no Republican senator has voiced support for such a maneuver, which in any event would fail in the Democratic-controlled House.
Mooney, 49, is in his third term representing West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. With the state likely to lose a seat after the pending redistricting cycle, Mooney could face a 2022 primary against either of his fellow members of the West Virginia delegations, Reps. David B. McKinley and Carol Miller, giving him a special incentive to highlight his loyalty to Trump.
Trump won West Virginia with 69 percent of the vote; only Wyoming gave him a larger margin.