Senator McConnell is warning fellow Republicans to refrain from objecting to any of the electoral votes that — come January 6 — will be counted in the world’s greatest deliberative body. He issued the warning, Politico reports, during a private call with the GOP caucus. Even a single objection, it seems, could force the Senators to declare themselves one by one. Which would, Mr. McConnell reckons, be a “terrible vote.”
Why? Or — as Robert Bartley, late editor of the Wall Street Journal, liked to say — one could argue that round or one could argue that flat. What is being argued by Mr. McConnell, and he is one of the canniest senators ever to lead the upper house, is that it would put each Senator on the spot — “because,” as Politico puts it, “they would need to vote it down and appear against President Donald Trump.”
Maybe. Or maybe not. It might turn out that some senators would not see the need to vote an objection down. Some Republicans, after all, sided with Texas in its lawsuit against Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The Supreme Court refused to grant the motion even to file Texas’ complaint. Original jurisdiction be damned. This left those who nursed doubts about the votes in four states nowhere to be heard.
So why shouldn’t the Senate itself, given the authority vested in it by the Constitution, serve its part as the venue of last resort? Senator McConnell would no doubt point out that even if the entire Senate were to sign on to an objection to a state’s electoral vote, President-elect Biden would still be confirmed as President. That’s because any objection, to be sustained, must be endorsed by a majority in both houses of Congress.
We’re notoriously prone to keeping an eye out for long-shots. Even we, though, grasp that the House, being controlled by Democrats, is not going to object to electoral votes in favor of Mr. Biden. Were a Senator and a member of the House to force a vote, our guess is a majority of even the Republicans in the House would credit the electors of Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin who cast their slips for Mr. Biden.
Does that mean a Senator must stifle his own objection? The objection would be made at the joint meeting of Congress January 6. The joint meeting is to count the electoral vote. For any objection to be heard, it must be signed by at least one member of each house. Then the Senate would withdraw from the chamber, and each house would meet separately. A majority of each house must join the objection or the objection fails.
Maybe a Senate session, where each Senator must declare him- or herself in respect of the objected-to electoral vote, would be a good thing. If a GOP solon thinks any electoral vote is unacceptable, why shouldn’t he stand up and be counted? And if he thinks the vote was fairly won by Mr. Biden, why shouldn’t he or she be put on the spot and asked to say so? Maybe it would be best if Mr. Trump knows where he stands.
Not to mention the rest of us. It’s not our intention here to suggest how the Senate should vote one way or another. It is our intention, though, to question the wisdom of stifling any objections. If there are objections (there may not be), we favor the Senate hearing them. And debating them in the allotted two hours. And letting President Trump and the rest of the public listen. It might help everyone decide where the GOP is going in the next four years.