Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri became the first senator on Wednesday to announce he will join a group of House Republicans in objecting to Congress certifying President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, setting up a final public battle over President Trump’s persistent claims of election fraud.
“I cannot vote to certify the Electoral College results on Jan. 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws,” Mr. Hawley said in a statement.
He also said he won’t vote to certify the election “without pointing out the unprecedented effort of mega-corporations, including Facebook and Twitter, to interfere in the election in support of Joe Biden.”
His announcement gives fresh momentum to a long-shot effort, encouraged by Mr. Trump, to overturn Mr. Biden’s victory next week on the floor of the House and the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged Republican senators not to join the plan, angering the president.
Mr. Hawley’s decision also is placing renewed focus on Vice President Mike Pence’s role in the vote-counting on Jan. 6 as president of the Senate. Allies of Mr. Trump are calling on Mr. Pence to exert unprecedented discretion in deciding whether to count pro-Trump or pro-Biden electors from battleground states where Mr. Trump says widespread election fraud occurred.
Mr. Trump again showed his eagerness for a dramatic floor battle next week to uphold his claims of Democratic cheating.
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“The United States had more votes than it had people voting, by a lot,” the president tweeted Wednesday. “This travesty cannot be allowed to stand. It was a Rigged Election, one not even fit for third world countries! JANUARY SIXTH, SEE YOU IN DC!”
A group of House Republicans led by Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama has been seeking at least one Senate sponsor for the plan to object to Mr. Biden’s presidential electors from six swing states won by the Democrat. Without a senator to object, their effort would be certain to fail.
Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki dismissed the plan, saying that Mr. Biden will be sworn into office Jan. 20.
“This is merely a formality [and] certainly should be treated as much,” she said of the Jan. 6 proceedings. “Regardless of whatever antics anyone is up to on Jan. 6, President-elect Biden will be sworn in on the 20th.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats predicted they will defeat the pro-Trump move, regardless of Mr. Hawley’s intentions.
“I have no doubt that on next Wednesday, a week from today, that Joe Biden will be confirmed by the acceptance of the vote of the Electoral College as the 46th president of the United States,” Mrs. Pelosi said Wednesday at a press conference.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York noted that the Trump campaign and its allies have lost 13 lawsuits over Pennsylvania’s election results alone.
“The effort by the sitting president of the United States to overturn the results is patently undemocratic,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor. “The effort by others to amplify and burnish his ludicrous claims of fraud is equally revolting. This is America. We have elections, we have results. We make arguments based on fact and reason, not conspiracy and fantasy.”
He vowed that Congress will ratify Mr. Biden’s victory in the Electoral College, and that Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris will be sworn in on Jan. 20.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, said she will work with unnamed Republicans to stop the pro-Trump forces from rejecting Mr. Biden’s electoral votes. She accused Mr. Hawley of positioning himself for a presidential bid in 2024.
“This is how you run for President on the Republican side in 2024. You join a coup attempt,” she tweeted. “Democracy will prevail. As lead Dem on Rules Com. I will guarantee it. There’s a bipartisan group of electeds who will put our country first. See you on the 6th!”
The Senate Rules Committee is chaired by Sen. Roy Blunt, Mr. Hawley’s Republican colleague from Missouri. Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, also sits on the panel.
Although Mr. Hawley said he’s heard of other Republican senators interested in joining him, several GOP senators on Wednesday dismissed his plan.
“Although I didn’t like the outcome of the election, I think the election’s over,” Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama told reporters.
Mr. Hawley said 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,” he said. “For these reasons, I will follow the same practice Democrat members of Congress have in years past and object during the certification process on Jan. 6 to raise these critical issues.”
The president held a lengthy strategy session with Mr. Brooks and other GOP lawmakers at the White House last week about the Jan. 6 vote. Later, Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia told The Washington Times that Mr. Pence, who attended the meetings, is “on board” with the plan.
Mr. Pence has been mostly quiet about his upcoming role, even as Trump allies pressure him to act decisively on the president’s behalf next week. A group of Trump supporters led by Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Texas naming Mr. Pence as a defendant and asking a judge to declare that Mr. Pence has the “exclusive authority and sole discretion” to decide which electoral votes from a given state should be counted.
Many constitutional law analysts say that’s a misreading of the vice president’s role under election law and the 12th Amendment, which outlines the electoral vote process. Traditionally, the vice president’s job in the quadrennial vote-counting has been limited to opening envelopes containing the votes of electors for each state in alphabetical order, then handing them off for the announcing of results.
But public calls are mounting for Mr. Pence to play a much more decisive role. Conservative activists John and Andy Schlafly, sons of the late conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, wrote in a column online this week that Mr. Pence alone “has the constitutional authority to recognize Electoral College votes.”
“Pence should decline to recognize the Biden votes from the states tainted by fraud,” they wrote.
The vice president’s office had no comment Wednesday.
The vote in Congress is the final mandated step in the election process before Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. Normally, it’s a routine event in which lawmakers in the House and Senate vote to accept each state’s slate of presidential electors.
Several House Democrats objected to Mr. Trump’s electoral votes in January 2017, as Mr. Hawley noted. But their effort died in the House because no senator agreed to object.
Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville, Alabama Republican, has suggested that he would object to Mr. Biden’s votes. But he hasn’t confirmed his intentions.
If lawmakers object to a state’s presidential electors, the House and Senate must debate the matter and then vote in each chamber on whether to accept that state’s electoral votes. The House and Senate would need to agree to reject a state’s votes.
Mr. Biden won the election with 306 electoral votes to Mr. Trump’s 232. If certain states’ electoral votes aren’t accepted by Congress and neither candidate has the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, the election would be thrown into the Democratic-led House to decide.
The process of objecting to Mr. Biden’s votes essentially will create a loyalty test for GOP lawmakers over Mr. Trump. And a vote against the president could risk creating primary challenges in 2022 for incumbent Republicans such as Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, John Thune of South Dakota, James Lankford of Oklahoma, and Mr. Blunt.
Mr. Hawley tweeted, “Millions of voters concerned about election integrity deserve to be heard. I will object on January 6 on their behalf.”
The president, who is spending the holidays at his Mar-a-Lago resort in southern Florida, continued to push his claims of election fraud Wednesday.
“The Presidential Election was Rigged with hundreds of thousands of ballots mysteriously flowing into Swing States very late at night as everyone thought the election was easily won by me,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “There were many other acts of fraud and irregularities as well. STAY TUNED!”
The president also is encouraging his supporters to descend on Washington Jan. 6.
Mrs. Greene tweeted on Wednesday that she believes Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress are coordinating on a possible change in parliamentary procedure next week to prevent the pro-Trump forces from rejecting Mr. Biden’s electoral votes.
“Word on the Hill is that Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi could be working together on a rules change ‘deal’ to block our Electoral College Certification objection,” she tweeted. “The American people deserve to hear about the voter fraud that took place on Nov 3 … NO DEAL, NO COVER-UP!”
⦁ David Sherfinski contributed to this report.