In the next 36 hours, Americans are going to determine the control of the Senate for the next two years, and Republicans are going to try and stage a coup in the halls of Congress. To lead off this latest infrastructure week, both Joe Biden and Donald Trump travelled to Georgia on Monday to rally their respective parties in support of the Senate candidates on Tuesday. Or at least, that’s why Biden was present. At an Atlanta rally, Biden heaped praise on Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, and directed scorn at Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler for how they had placed support of Trump over both their state and their nation. Though Biden talked about other topics — including the need to speed up deployment of COVID-19 vaccines — the Georgia senate race remained at the center of his remarks.
On the other hand, Donald Trump made a clear statement of his intentions right from the start. “I don’t do rallies for other people,” said Trump. “I do rallies for me.” Which is probably why Perdue and Loeffler were barely a side note at a rally devoted to continuing lies about election fraud, promising to defeat Republican governor Brian Kemp in his next race, and delivering a not so subtle threat to Mike Pence.
As The Atlantic reports, Republicans are continuing to pretend that Pence’s ceremonial role for Wednesday official certification of the Electoral College vote consists of more than just opening the box, handing over the contents to clerks, and announcing the total. And Trump didn’t hesitate to lay out his expectations that Pence was going to find those votes he couldn’t get from his phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
“I hope our great vice president comes through for us. If he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him quite as much,” Trump told the senate runoff Trump rally crowd. “He’s going to have a lot to say with it.”
As The New York Times reports, the January 6 certification of the Electoral College votes should be little more than a ceremony leading up to the moment when Pence officially names Joe Biden the next President of the United States. That ten second clip is usually all that makes it onto television. In 2016, when some House Democrats attempted to raise verbal objections, the Vice-President Biden quickly gaveled them down. “It’s over,” said Biden.
But Pence has already made it clear he intends to give Republicans planning to object to the vote in states Trump lost plenty of time to air false claims and debunked data. What’s not clear is what Pence intends to do next. Under the law, Pence could halt the Republican objections immediately for a simple reason — they 1887 law on counting the electoral votes makes it clear that the only allowable objections are in case of a state failing to get their votes certified before the Congressional session, or being in such a state of dispute that they send more than one slate of electors to Washington. Neither of those things happened. All 50 states certified their election results before the “safe harbor” date, meaning that there’s no valid cause for an objection.
Still, Pence can be expected to give Republicans at least two hours to keep tearing down America’s faith in free and fair elections. Claims of thousands of smuggled ballots, voting machines engineered by South American dictators, and votes being exported to Europe for manipulation have all proven to be as fantastical as they seemed. Don’t be surprised to hear these claims, and others, repeated at the Capitol.
And then, after Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz have finished elbowing each other for the role of Seditionist In Chief, what does Pence do? Republicans in the House—and in particular Louie Gohmert—have made assertions that Pence can do any damn thing he pleases. Under Gohmert’s peculiar notion of the 12th Amendment, Pence could decide to throw out the votes from enough states to make Trump’s 232 electoral votes the winning number. Or he could just name Trump the victor and not bother with the count. All of which makes one wonder why the founding fathers bothered with all those elections in the first place.
Except, of course, that’s not the system. Pence will announce a winner, and that winner will be Joe Biden. However, those same Republicans who sued Pence to force him to do things he can’t do under the law, are now arguing that Pence should just do it anyway, name Trump the winner, and let the Supreme Court decide. That’s all very, very unlikely. Pence’s aides continue to say they expect him to simply walk through the ceremony, get to the end, make the announcement, and hunker down for the expected abuse.
But until January 20, we’re all just living in the 2020 epilog, so …