WASHINGTON — As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tries to tamp down efforts in the Senate to reject President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory, some Republican senators are suggesting they might buck his warning.
The discord comes weeks before a joint session of Congress convenes Jan. 6 to count votes cast by the Electoral College, which elected Biden over President Donald Trump by a 306-232 vote margin Monday. Some House Republicans have said they intend to object to Biden’s slate of electors in some states.
“You’ll see what’s coming,” Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., said this week. “You’ve been reading about in the House. We’re going to have to do it in the Senate.”
Another senator, Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., who is facing a runoff Jan. 5, wouldn’t say Wednesday whether she’ll challenge Biden’s victory when Congress convenes the next day.
“I haven’t looked at it,” Loeffler told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “January 6 is a long way out, and there’s a lot to play out between now and then.”
Congressional approval of the election results is the last hurdle before Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are sworn in Jan. 20.
In the House, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks is leading an effort to reject Biden’s Electoral College victory. The congressman has said he wants to reject the electoral votes certified by states such as Georgia and Pennsylvania that had “flawed election systems.”
Any objections Jan. 6 would require support from one House member and one senator to be considered. The two chambers would meet separately to vote on any disputes.
But even if one senator does endorse a House objection, the effort is destined to fail in the Democratic-controlled House and likely to fail in the Republican-led Senate as well after McConnell recognized Biden as the “president-elect” this week.
Even after Electoral College loss, Trump has refused to concede to Biden as he wages false claims of voter fraud to argue the election was stolen from him.
Although no senators have publicly committed to sign on to objections from the House, Tuberville, who was elected last month and will be sworn into office Jan. 3, indicated he might.
“It’s impossible. It is impossible what happened,” Tuberville, former head football coach at Auburn University, said referring to Biden’s victory as he stumped in Georgia for Loeffler and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga. “But we’re going to get that corrected.”
“I’m gonna tell you: Don’t give up on him,” Tuberville said of Trump. “Don’t give up on him.”
His comments were captured in a video by liberal activist Lauren Windsor and posted on Twitter. “We’re going to fight hard,” Tuberville said following his speech after someone asked if he’s going to fight to “make this election right.”
A Tuberville spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
During a private call Tuesday to GOP caucus members, NBC and Politico reported, McConnell warned Republican senators not to object to the election results on Jan. 6. Doing so, he told them, would force Republicans to take a “terrible vote” by voting down the objection and thus appearing against Trump.
In coordination with Trump advisers, Republicans in battleground states Biden won such as Georgia, Michigan and Arizona submitted votes from separate slates of unofficial Trump electors for Congress to count. But this effort is also doomed to fail in both chambers.
Republican senators who recognized Biden’s election victory this week include Ben Sasse of Nebraska, John Thune of South Dakota, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Roy Blunt of Missouri. Others who already had include Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.
Yet other Republican senators have been mum on whether they will object to Biden’s wins in some states.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who said Wednesday the election “in many ways was stolen” without providing proof, did not respond when asked by reporters whether he’s considering objecting.
Loeffler told reporters in Georgia that Trump “has a right to every legal recourse and that’s what’s playing out right now” when asked multiple times whether she conceded Trump’s defeat following Biden’s electoral win.
Thune, the Senate Majority Whip, told reporters Thursday he hopes Tuberville doesn’t follow through with objecting to the outcome.
“I think it’s time, like I said before, to bond,” Thune said. “And I know there probably is our members who still have concerns about the election, integrity of the election. But the fact of the matter is, that’s been litigated over and over.
“It’s time to be done with this, and I would hope that we wouldn’t have members of the Senate, who would decide that that makes sense. I don’t think it’s a good decision right now. And I don’t think it’s good for the country.”
Contributing: Nicholas Wu
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.