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Congress set to confirm Biden victory over Republican protests

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A joint session of Congress meant to officially confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory recessed Wednesday afternoon, after Congressional Republicans objected to accepting Arizona’s 11 electoral votes. 

Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican, objected in writing to Arizona’s results, along with 60 of his colleagues and Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz supported the move. Federal law states that if both a House member and a senator object to a slate of state electors, the joint session will recess and both the Senate and House of Representatives will debate the question for a maximum of two hours.

Republicans argued that the electoral votes were invalid because state election officials and courts in many battleground states ordered modifications to election protocol to protect voters from the COVID-19 epidemic. Though many states that voted for President Trump also made such changes this year, the GOP only plans to object to electors from states that Biden won.

Both the House and the Senate will debate each contested states results for up to two hours.  If Republicans force two hours of debate for each of the half-dozen states that they seek to depict as in question, it could mean the proceedings drag on into the early hours of Thursday morning.

After that time, each chamber will hold a vote by simple majority on whether to accept or reject the objection. Given that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and several other prominent Republicans in the Senate have urged their colleagues not to mount these challenges, it’s unlikely that even a Republican Senate would vote to accept such an objection.

With Democrats in control of the House of Representatives, it’s a still greater stretch to imagine that the body would vote to reject any state’s slate of Biden electors. According to federal law, for a state’s slate of electors to be rejected, both houses of Congress would have to agree to do so.

Speaking to supportive demonstrators outside the White House, President Donald Trump again claimed Wednesday that Pence has the power to unilaterally accept or reject presidential election results from any state he chooses, though that idea has been rejected by constitutional scholars and even, according to news reports, the vice president himself.

“All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become president,” Trump told his supporters. “We will never give up. We will never concede.”

This idea has been rejected by constitutional scholars and the vice president himself. “It is my considered judgement that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Pence said in a statement released shortly before the session.

Pence, however, did say that he supports efforts by Congressional Republicans to challenge electoral votes during the counting. At least 12 Republican senators and potentially upwards of 140 House Republicans will formally object in writing to the electoral results submitted by battleground states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada, according to reports.