Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the upcoming electoral vote certification "the most consequential vote" on a call with senators this week, according to Senator Mitt Romney, who was on the call. Congress will convene on January 6 to count each state's electoral votes and reaffirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory.
The tally offers Republican lawmakers who have yet to acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden's victory one last-ditch attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election. Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri announced Wednesday he intends to object to the certification.
Asked his interpretation of McConnell's comments, Romney told reporters Friday: "I see that as a statement that he believes it's a — it's a referendum on our democracy."
The joint session of Congress is required by law to ratify presidential results, but also allows "members to object to the returns from any individual state as they are announced," according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Lawmakers may object to the results — even if it's not their home state — leaving the door open for representatives who support Mr. Trump's unproven claims of widespread election fraud to interrupt the typically ceremonial process.
Hawley is the only Republican senator to commit to challenging the electoral votes, though several conservative House members have vowed to do so. President Trump has suggested Congress should intervene, in far-flung hope they will deliver him a second term after previous efforts to challenge the election results failed.
The Missouri Republican said in a statement that he "cannot vote to certify the electoral college results on January 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws." He added that he "cannot vote to certify without pointing out the unprecedented effort of mega corporations, including Facebook and Twitter, to interfere in this election, in support of Joe Biden."
"At the very least, Congress should investigate allegations of voter fraud and adopt measures to secure the integrity of our elections. But Congress has so far failed to act," Hawley said.
Objections must be signed by both a member of the House and Senate. If that is achieved, the two houses separate to debate and vote to accept or reject the objection. The House, however, is controlled by Democrats, albeit by a slimmer margin, so even if the GOP-controlled Senate were to reject a state, there's essentially no chance that the House would.
McConnell asked Republican senators last month not to object when the joint session convenes. Other GOP senators, including those close to Mr. Trump, have suggested such a move would be fruitless.
Although Hawley's effort is unlikely to succeed, Romney called it "dangerous for democracy here and abroad," as it "continues to spread the false rumor that somehow the election was stolen."
"Look, I lost in 2012, I know what it's like to lose," said Romney, who ran for president in 2012. "And there were people that said there are irregularities. I have people today who say 'hey you know what you really won' — but I didn't, I lost fair and square. Of course there were irregularities there always are, but spreading this kind of rumor about our election system not working is dangerous for democracy here and abroad."