Why Sen. Hawley’s objection matters—even if he can’t stop Biden from being President

December 30, 2020, 10:57 PM UTC

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri announced on Wednesday that he will object to the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College when Congress meets for a joint session next week. The move will force a vote in both the Senate and House following a floor debate, which some Republican lawmakers are keen to avoid.

The vote itself is all but determined already, as a successful challenge would have to win in both the Senate and House—the latter of which Democrats control. Biden will still be certified the winner of the election and take office on Jan. 20 as planned. But Hawley’s challenge, and the debate it triggers, will force some Republicans to express their thoughts on President Trump’s baseless allegations of election fraud. That could put the party in an awkward position going forward.

According to Hawley, some states, including key battleground state Pennsylvania, “failed to follow their own state election laws.” Almost all of the legal claims have been thrown out in court.

“At the very least,” the senator added in a statement, “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.”

Hawley’s statement will appeal to certain Republican voters, particularly ardent supporters of Trump. But his comments are at odds with top Republican leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who publicly accepted the results of the election and advised fellow party members against the move earlier this month. McConnell has been concerned that dragging the dispute out could harm Republican votes ahead of two crucial Senate runoff elections in Georgia just a day before Congress would convene on Jan. 6.

On the other hand, some Republican legislators could stand to benefit from going on the record in support of Trump. GOP senators up for reelection in 2022 could find it difficult to win another term if they break from Trump and state that they believe the 2020 election was conducted fairly.

The move could also be a ploy by Hawley to drum up support from Trump’s base. The senator has been floated as a potential presidential candidate in the 2024 election.

One thing is clear: The Republican Party is at a crossroads as it decides whether to remain loyal to Trump—and his fervent fan base—or project an air of integrity ahead of the Georgia runoffs, which will largely determine if Biden can pass liberal legislation in the first two years of his administration.

Biden’s camp dismissed Hawley’s objection and said the role of Congress in certifying the Electoral College’s vote is “merely a formality.”

“The American people spoke resoundingly in this election, and 81 million people have voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” a Biden spokesperson said Wednesday. “Congress will certify the results of the election as they do every four years.”

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