Congress will start combative vote-counting of the Electoral College results on Wednesday, with Vice President Mike Pence facing enormous pressure from President Trump and his allies to break precedent and reject the votes from battleground states for President-elect Joseph R. Biden.
Hundreds of Trump supporters gathered Tuesday on the grounds of the Capitol, a full 24 hours before lawmakers were to meet, as Mr. Trump publicly called on Mr. Pence to rescue his presidency.
“The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors,” Mr. Trump tweeted.
A night earlier, at a campaign rally in Georgia, the president said he hopes Mr. Pence “comes through” for him in the vote-counting.
“He’s going to have a lot to say about it,” the president predicted.
Mr. Trump and his vice president met in the Oval Office on Tuesday afternoon.
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Thousands more Trump supporters were descending on Washington for “Stop the Steal” rallies on Wednesday, with Mr. Trump expected to address one gathering near the White House. District and Capitol law-enforcement officials were girding for potential street clashes, and businesses near the White House and elsewhere in the District were boarding up their windows.
“Washington is being inundated with people who don’t want to see an election victory stolen by emboldened Radical Left Democrats,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “Our Country has had enough, they won’t take it anymore!”
He said he hopes Democrats and “weak and ineffective” Republicans “are looking at the thousands of people pouring into D.C. They won’t stand for a landslide election victory to be stolen.”
Mr. Biden’s inauguration looms in two weeks, and Wednesday’s vote-counting is the final mandated step in the election process. Trump allies are preparing to launch sustained attacks on the floor of the House and Senate detailing purported election fraud in several states, a process that could last more than a day.
Democrats and many Republicans say the effort will fail, however long it takes, because pro-Trump forces simply lack a majority of votes in either the House or Senate to block a state’s votes.
Mr. Pence will preside over the joint session of Congress for the counting of electoral votes from each state. Under the Electoral Count Act of 1887, the vice president’s role is typically limited to opening envelopes containing each state’s certified vote totals, and announcing the winner at the end of the process.
But with Republican senators and House members lining up to object to Mr. Biden’s electoral votes from the contested states, Mr. Pence’s role as president of the Senate is taking on heightened importance.
Club for Growth President David McIntosh, a longtime friend of Mr. Pence, said he expects the vice president to approach the moment in a manner that respects the Constitution while helping Mr. Trump as much as possible.
“Mike is basically a constitutionalist — he’s going to look this, look at his role as president of the Senate, and determine what powers he has and what powers he doesn’t have, and then execute, using that to the best of his ability,” Mr. McIntosh said in an interview. “In this case, that means helping President Trump.”
Mr. McIntosh, who said he hasn’t spoken to Mr. Pence about the matter, expects that the vice president won’t act unilaterally.
“The decision whether to object or not really comes down to the full Senate,” he said. “He’ll acknowledge people who want to move to object, to give them a chance to be fully heard. Let the debate occur, but let the final decision rest with the body.”
The president’s prospects seem insurmountable in both chambers. Republican Sens. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Tim Scott of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas and Jerry Moran of Kansas all announced Tuesday they won’t object to Mr. Biden’s electoral votes, bringing to at least 22 the number of Republican senators who will vote to certify the Democrat’s win.
Another 15 Republican senators haven’t said how they plan to vote. A group of 13 GOP senators led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas say they will oppose Mr. Biden’s vote totals. Mr. Cruz is calling for the appointment of an emergency election commission to review the results within 10 days.
Democrats hold the majority in the House, although dozens of House Republican lawmakers plan to object to Mr. Biden’s slates of electors from battleground states.
Mr. Trump has continued to pressure members of his party on Capitol Hill, dubbing those not supporting him “The Surrender Caucus” — and going as far as to threaten primary challengers against them.
When lawmakers from the House and Senate object to a state’s votes, each chamber will debate the matter separately for two hours, then vote on whether to accept the state’s total. Under the Electoral Count Act of 1887, the House and Senate would need to agree to reject a state’s votes.
Edward Foley, director of the Election Law Project at Ohio State University and a constitutional law professor, said Congress did not intend under Electoral Count Act for the vice president to be “decisive, to control the outcome of the process.”
“If Vice President Pence plays it straight, however, it won’t be what President Trump wants, because playing it straight is following the rules of the statute,” Mr. Foley said on C-SPAN. “He doesn’t control the process.”
Richard H. Pildes, a constitutional law professor at New York University, said the law gives Congress a very limited role in the vote-counting.
“Congress’s role under the federal law that governs this process is not to independently re-litigate the election or make its own independent judgment about the votes from the state,” he said. “It is supposed to determine which votes are the votes that have been certified by the relevant legal authorities in the state that have the power to do that.”
He said the outcome is not in question.
“Congress is going to accept the votes from all of these states. Enough Republicans in the Senate have already made that clear,” he said. “It is just a question of how long the process is going to be drawn out … does the process further intensify the divisions in the country … we know how this is going to end.”
Legal analysts said Mr. Biden would have little recourse if Congress did move to overturn his election win. They said judges would likely buck any legal challenge.
“I doubt the Supreme Court would really want to hear a case like this,” said David Schultz, a professor at Hamline University.
Mr. Pence has held several meetings in recent days with the Senate parliamentarian and others to review his role and responsibilities. His allies have said his role is largely ministerial.
Mr. McIntosh, who attended the rally in Georgia on Monday night in which the president called on Mr. Pence to “come through” for him, said it was a “classic Trump” move.
“The president was really laying bare what he’s been thinking about all this — he’s clearly upset about the election, believes that it was stolen,” Mr. McIntosh said. “And it was a call on Mike to seriously look at it and do what he thinks right. At the same time, he said ‘I know he’s a friend of mine, he might not end up doing this, but I still think he’s a good man.’ He was telling that whole 25,000 [person] audience exactly what’s on his heart and what’s on his mind.”
He said Mr. Pence can handle the pressure.
“I think it’s part of the job, and Mike’s going to do a good job,” Mr. McIntosh said. “There’s always pressure at different points when the politics, and doing what’s right, and what’s good for the country, all come together. I think it’s a job he relishes, because anything that’s easy isn’t worth doing. This is hard, and I’m very confident he’ll decide, ‘I’m going to just sort through to find out what the right answer is, and then do it.’ He’ll do what he thinks is right and let the chips fall as they may.”