Top House Democrats Say They’re Prepared to Defend Against GOP Electoral Vote Challenge

January 4, 2021 Updated: January 4, 2021

A leading House Democrat says his caucus will be prepared to offer a defense against the Jan. 6 electoral challenge being led by GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate.

“The voters have spoken. The Electoral College has spoken. The courts have spoken,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told reporters on Jan. 4.

Jeffries added that Democrats are going to “defend in a serious, solemn, and substantive fashion” when the joint session of Congress meets and Republicans lodge objections.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) is leading an effort in the House to challenge the electoral votes of key states. The effort requires both a senator and a representative. A group of several Republican senators has pledged to challenge the votes, led by Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Several GOP senators and House representatives said they won’t participate in the challenge, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) reportedly telling Republicans that challenging the electoral vote could be a politically perilous move.

On Jan. 3, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) laid out a strategy for Democrats during the joint session. She said in a statement that Vice President Mike Pence—who is the president of the Senate—”presides over a Joint Session and calls the roll of states.”

“The tellers announce the results of each state, alphabetically. There is no other discussion in the Joint Session,” Pelosi wrote. “If a written objection is lodged by a member of the House and Senate, we then meet in our individual chambers for up to two hours of debate. Only then will members be recognized to speak on the floor. Unless both the House and Senate vote to reject the electoral count for the state in question, the objection is rejected.”

Speaker Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks to reporters in Washington on Dec. 20, 2020. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The statement further suggests that House Democrats have been working on defending against the electoral challenges lodged by GOP members of Congress in favor of President Donald Trump.

“Constitutional authorities and our membership have been working on the Democratic presentation of the constitutional, historical, and thematic justification” for their defense, according to her statement. She added that Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) have provided “patriotic” and “strategic guidance,” adding that they would meet before Jan. 6.

Pelosi then asserted that she believes Joe Biden will be certified as the next president after the challenges are completed.

After a senator and representative object to a state’s electoral votes, a two-hour debate is carried out. A simple majority vote is then held on whether to certify the state’s votes.