Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Jan. 2 called efforts by his Republican colleagues to challenge the Electoral College results on Jan. 6 an “egregious ploy” that “dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic.”
Romney, who has had a turbulent relationship with President Donald Trump, offered his criticism in a statement about a plan by at least 12 Republican senators to object to Electoral College votes cast for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in several contested states during the Jan. 6 joint session in Congress, when valid votes are set to be counted.
“The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic. The congressional power to reject electors is reserved for the most extreme and unusual circumstances. These are far from it,” Romney said.
His statement comes after a group of 11 Republican senators announced on Jan. 2 their intention to challenge Electoral College votes from contested states. The group, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), said the 2020 election “featured unprecedented allegations of voter fraud, violations, and lax enforcement of election law, and other voting irregularities.”
The allegations of fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election “exceed any in our lifetimes,” they said, adding that this “deep distrust” of U.S. democratic processes “will not magically disappear” and “should concern us all,” whether or not elected officials or journalists believe the allegations.
“It poses an ongoing threat to the legitimacy of any subsequent administrations,” the senators wrote in their statement, while calling on Congress to appoint an electoral commission to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election results. They said they would object to the Electoral College results if the audit didn’t take place.
In his statement, Romney criticized Cruz and other Republican senators for their efforts, saying their plan to “restore trust in the election” was “nonsense.”
“This argument ignores the widely perceived reality that Congress is an overwhelmingly partisan body; the American people wisely place greater trust in the federal courts where judges serve for life. Members of Congress who would substitute their own partisan judgement for that of the courts do not enhance public trust, they imperil it,” he said.
The Utah senator added that he was concerned that if Congress were to actually reject electoral college votes, then challenges could happen every time a lawmaker’s preferred candidate loses.
“Congress, not voters in the respective states, would choose our presidents,” Romney said.
Cruz’s joint statement was signed by Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.).
Meanwhile, Sens.-elect Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) indicated that they also planned to join. They’ll be sworn in on Jan. 3, several days before the joint session.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was the first senator to announce his plans to object earlier this week, while dozens of House members have said they would object to the Electoral College results.
Objections to any state’s votes during the joint session must be made in writing by at least one House member and one senator. If the objection for any state meets this requirement, the joint session pauses and each house withdraws to its own chamber to debate the question for a maximum of two hours. The House and the Senate then vote separately to accept or reject the objection, which requires a majority vote from both chambers.
If both candidates receive less than 270 electoral votes on Jan. 6, then a contingent election is triggered in which each state’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives casts one en bloc vote to determine the president, while the vice president is decided by a vote in the U.S. Senate.
Earlier on Jan. 2, Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) issued statements to say that they also opposed any attempts to challenge election college results on Jan. 6.
Similarly, Senate Democrats rebuked efforts by their Republican colleagues.
The group of Republican senators acknowledged in their statement that they expected Democrats and a few Republicans to vote against them but added that “support for election integrity should not be a partisan issue.”
“A fair and credible audit—conducted expeditiously and completed well before January 20 would dramatically improve Americans’ faith in our electoral process and would significantly enhance the legitimacy of whoever becomes our next President. We owe that to the People,” the Republican senators said.
Vice President Mike Pence, who will be presiding over the Jan. 6 session, said on Jan. 2 that he welcomed efforts by lawmakers to challenge Electoral College results, according to a statement sent by his chief of staff to reporters.
In December, Romney boycotted a Senate hearing examining election “irregularities,” saying he didn’t think it would be “productive” at this stage.