In retrospect, Paul Ryan looks like a genius. Well … a relative genius when compared to the rest of his party who decided to grab the nearest strap and ride that Trump train to the final destination. Republicans passed their massive tax cut for billionaires on December 22, 2017. And then, it seems, they really were tired of winning. Because in the next election they lost the House. And then the White House. And now it seems all but certain they’ve lost the Senate. Trump train: Destination, Loserland.
But yesterday’s humiliating defeat in a state that had been reliably red for decades wasn’t the end of it. There is no end. Republicans are just waking up to the idea that the Trump train is a kind of mobile Hotel California. They can never get off. And today they’re going to humiliate themselves, harm the nation, and split their sagging party down the middle. All in a losing cause, to support a loser.
Because they can’t get off now. They can never get off.
Today is the day that the votes from the Electoral College are counted and the totals announced. That’s it. There’s no slates of electors today. That’s done. There’s no certifying the vote today. That’s over. This is simply the final, official, count.
The 12th Amendment and the 1887 legislation on managing this event do have some conditions under which today’s vote might be challenged. One of them is when a state fails to get their act together and come up with official vote totals that are certified by the governor. The other is when a state is so in an uproar that two slates of electors were sent to the Electoral College. Neither of those things happened. All 50 states got their votes certified by the “safe harbor” date. There is no standing for anyone to challenge the results that are already hermetically sealed in a Mason jar on the back porch of Funk & Wagnalls … or actually, in a box that Mike Pence will ceremonially open on the floor of a joint session of Congress this afternoon.
The votes from each state will be reviewed, in alphabetical order, by two appointees from the House and two appointees from the Senate. And the totals of these votes will be announced.
Pence will announce the total for each state. At this point, someone can raise an objection, as some House Democrats did in 2016. And at this point Pence can—and should—simply shoot them down. It doesn’t matter that Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and eleven seditionist Republicans in the Senate have signed on to join the Louie Gohmert faction of the House. Yes, a written objection signed by members of both House and Senate is required to make an objection official, but that objection still has to be under one of the grounds that is allowed under law … and that can’t happen because, as mentioned above, all 50 states certified their votes and got them in by the safe harbor date. There cannot be a valid objection.
What Mike Pence should do is just what Joe Biden did when verbal objections were raised in 2016—dismiss them and go right on to the next state. What Pence is very likely to do instead is pretend that the objections warrant debate and a vote. This will give Hawley, Cruz, Gohmert, and the other 148 members of the Biggest Loser Caucus a chance to discuss their objections. If Hawley gets to talk, expect vague, but also trite, hand waving about how lots of people believe it, so it must be true. If Gohmert has the chair, we may actually get details of how Hugo Chavez designed our voting machines, or even exciting new details on how Barack Obama conspired with Italy to defeat Donald Trump.
It doesn’t matter, because at the end of each objection, there will be a vote. The House will vote. And the Senate will vote. It’s unclear whether they show mercy on all of us waiting and vote at the same time, or drag this thing out even longer by going one after another. Probably the latter. In any case, any objections has to win in both chambers to be upheld. Unlike the messed-up procedure that happens if the House actually has to vote on the winner of the election (in that case, each House delegation for each state only gets one vote, meaning that even though the House is controlled by Democrats, the House could vote to seat Trump because of all that empty space they rule), this is a straight up vote. What happens when Republicans face a straight up vote? They lose.
In any case, an objection has to be upheld by both the House and the Senate to survive, so none of them will. Which is particularly good, because no one has any real idea of what would happen next.
Then they will read the next state. Lather, rinse, repeat.
With a theoretical limit of two hours “debate” on each objection, and lots of real world evidence that when such debate is broken down into five minutes here, five minutes there, and bathroom breaks and dinner recesses in between, two hours leans toward infinity … it’s not hard to see how this could be dragged on for a long, long time. Since Pence appears set to allow Republicans to object for reasons not covered in the relevant laws, they could object to every state that Biden won, keeping everyone seated in the Senate in a kind of tag team filibuster.
But it seems that Republicans may object to just three states. That doesn’t mean Republicans won’t rise in vocal opposition to other states—they absolutely will. It means that Gohmert, Hawley, Cruz, and Pence have decided they’ll do their “this is a legit objection” charade only for Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.
Considering that the whole affair starts at 1 PM ET, and should last a couple of hours in reasonable circumstances, these three states—and lots of verbal objections that Pence will let roll on rather than cutting them off as Biden did four years ago—should push the final announcement of results to somewhere around midnight. That means that, whatever Pence eventually announces from the podium, it will happen long after prime time. And probably after a lot of people exhausted from watching the Tuesday night runoff election returns have called it a night.
Odds are very good at the end of all this, Pence will simply announce Biden’s victory and gavel the session close over a roar of faux outrage from the seditionists. Fox appears to be bracing their audience for this outcome with frequent reminders that Pence’s role is purely ceremonial.
On the other hand, with Proud Boys battling in the streets, Gohmert pretending that Pence can replace the whole election system on a whim, and Trump already focusing his eternal hate, Pence could decide to … who knows. It’s 99% certain that Pence announces Joe Biden’s win and everyone goes home by the light of white supremacist bonfires, because the law really provides no other options.
So, of course, we’ll be here for live coverage.