WASHINGTON (AFP) – A group of Republican senators in the United States (US) led by veteran lawmaker Ted Cruz said on Saturday they will challenge Joe Biden’s election win – the latest last-ditch move to support Donald Trump’s efforts to undermine the vote.
The initiative, which appears certain to fail, flies in the face of rulings in dozens of courts and the findings by officials in several key states that there were no widespread voting problems.
The Republicans’ statement, signed by Cruz and six other current senators along with four senators-elect, asserted that “allegations of fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election exceed any in our lifetimes”.
The group said when Congress convenes in a joint session – for what normally would be a pro-forma certification of Biden’s victory – they will demand the creation of a special commission to conduct an “emergency 10-day audit” of the election results.
The statement said individual states could then convene special legislative sessions and potentially revise their vote totals.
“An attempt to steal a landslide win. Can’t let it happen!” Trump tweeted on Saturday.
Posting a list of the 11 senators, Trump added, “And after they see the facts, plenty more to come. Our country will love them for it!”
They join Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who said earlier that he planned to raise objections.
A Republican member of the House of Representatives, Louie Gohmert, has also announced his plan to oppose certification, and over 100 House Republicans reportedly will back his challenge.
Gohmert sought to further raise the stakes with a lawsuit that would have given Vice President Mike Pence, the power to overturn the election result.
Pence opposed that effort, and a federal judge in Texas on Friday rejected the suit. On Saturday, a federal appeals court upheld that dismissal.
The Hawley and Gohmert challenges will ensure that Congress must meet to hear the complaints.
The Congress sessions, sure to be contentious, will play out against a backdrop of pro-Trump rallies in Washington next week.
As with Trump’s other attempts to reverse his election defeat, the latest political maneuvering appears doomed.
Democrats control the House, and many Republicans are expected to vote on Wednesday for certification.
The 11 senators conceded that most Democrats and “more than a few Republicans” would likely oppose their initiative.
Among them is Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, a battleground state that helped Biden to victory. Its result is expected to be among those contested on Wednesday.
“A fundamental, defining feature of a democratic republic is the right of the people to elect their own leaders,” Toomey tweeted.
“The effort by Senators Hawley, Cruz, and others to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election in swing states like Pennsylvania directly undermines this right.”
He added, “I voted for President Trump and endorsed him for re-election. But, on Wednesday, I intend to vigorously defend our form of government by opposing this effort to disenfranchise millions of voters in my state and others.”
Responding to Toomey late Saturday night Hawley criticised the “shameless personal attacks”, and urged senators to avoid “making unfounded claims about the intentions of our fellow senators”.
“I never claim to speak for another senator, but I do speak for my constituents when they raise legitimate concerns about issues as important as the fairness of our elections,” he said in a message to the Senate GOP conference, first reported by Politico.
Earlier, Utah Senator Mitt Romney, a vocal Trump opponent, dismissed his colleagues’ rationale as “nonsense”.
“The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic,” Romney said.
“Members of Congress who would substitute their own partisan judgment for that of the courts do not enhance public trust, they imperil it,” he added. “Has ambition so eclipsed principle?”
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell also urged fellow Republicans to vote to certify and avoid a divisive political brawl.
Pence, however, is reportedly encouraging lawmakers to debate the baseless accusations of voting irregularities.
“Vice President Pence shares the concerns of millions of Americans about voter fraud and irregularities in the last election,” his chief of staff Marc Short said in a statement to US news outlets.
Biden won in the all-important Electoral College by a vote of 306 to 232.
Cruz is considered a likely 2024 Presidential candidate. Hawley is also said to be positioning himself for a 2024 run – and so is Pence.