8 Pa. Congressmen, all Republicans, set to object to final certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win
There is no defeat when you’ve done your job.
That’s how one midstate Congressman described his decision to vote against the scheduled certification of Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday.
Rep. Fred Keller, R-Snyder County, is among eight members of Pennsylvania’s 18-member House delegation who have said they won’t vote to certify the results because of what they see as improper changes in election procedures by both the Wolf Administration and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that led to inconsistencies in its administration.
Keller said Monday he’s not trying to say Biden didn’t win; the distinction here is that the game, in his view, wasn’t played according to the rules set out by the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions.
The objections that will be filed during Wednesday’s certification are almost certain to be unsuccessful.
Both chambers would have to agree to reject any state’s votes. Democrats, who will support Biden as a bloc, hold a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, and many Republicans are also expected to split with the objectors in certifying the presidential results, including Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Bucks County.
The objections are also not expected to pass in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, where senior GOP leaders like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, do not back the effort.
But most of Pennsylvania’s GOP delegation says they’re eager to stand on principle here because they’re convinced they’re right.
“I’m not doing this because one person won and the other one did not,” Keller said in a telephone interview Monday, adding those are fights that are being played in different arenas.
“I am doing this because we have a Constitution and I swore to uphold that Constitution. And if I sit by and do nothing, what would give any person, on either side of this issue, any confidence that if the government came and tried to take their rights, that I would stand up for them?”
The Republicans, of course, are catching a lot of flak for their stance, mostly from Democrats. But there are also a growing number of GOP officials who have been highly critical of the move, amid signs that the issue is driving a huge wedge into their party.
n Pennsylvania, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey released a statement Saturday declaring he supports this week’s certifications, and he appealed to his colleagues to reconsider their fight, which he argued amounts to elected officials’ substituting their judgment for the voters’.
“I acknowledge that this past election, like all elections, had irregularities,” Toomey said in part. “But the evidence is overwhelming that Joe Biden won this election. His narrow victory in Pennsylvania is easily explained by the decline in suburban support for President Trump and the president’s slightly smaller victory margins in most rural counties.
“I voted for President Trump and endorsed him for re-election. But, on Wednesday, I intend to vigorously defend our form of government by opposing this effort to disenfranchise millions of voters in my state and others.”
U.S. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, has called the objections a “dangerous ploy” intended to “disenfranchise millions of Americans,” and accused objectors of trying to further their own careers at the expense of the truth by tapping into Mr. Trump’s “populist base.”
There is no doubt that the opposition to certification is a politically popular thing to do for most of the Pennsylvania Republican House members, many of who represent reliably Republican districts that posted strong majorities for President Donald J. Trump this fall.
Dozens of busses have been chartered to take Pennsylvanians into Washington D.C. Wednesday to attend pro-Trump rallies against the certification.
Biden won the national popular vote by more than seven million votes and holds a solid 306-232 margin in the all-important Electoral College.
Wednesday’s scheduled Congressional votes come after every state in the country has certified its respective election results after verifying their accuracy. Courts across the country, including a Supreme Court with a conservative majority, have also rejected nearly 60 attempts by Trump and his allies to challenge the results.
But Trump has refused to concede the race and has engaged in a desperate two-month campaign to pressure state officials and wage war in courts to try to get to a different result. The most recent example was a Saturday afternoon phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, urging him to revisit the results there yet again.
In Pennsylvania, where Biden scored a popular vote victory of just more than 80,000 votes, the objecting Congressmen say that the election process was tainted by:
- Orders by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, to extend the period for receipt of mail-in ballots by three days, to the Friday after the Nov. 3 election day deadline spelled out in state law. The court’s majority said it was ordering the extension because of well-documented problems with the U.S. Postal Service. Ballots still had to be postmarked by Nov. 3.
- A Nov. 2 guidance from Wolf’s Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar that authorized notifications of mail-in or absentee voters whose ballots contained technical mistakes like forgetting a signature or a date so they could either correct the mistakes or cast provisional ballots at the polls. Some counties followed through, and others didn’t and the objectors say that and other issues like the approval of direct, drop-boxes for ballots led to the election being run by different procedures in different parts of the state.
- A separate guidance by Boockvar, later upheld by the state court, relaxing signature matching requirements on mail-in ballots to voter registration records, something that the objectors argue is routinely required of voters who vote in person.
In all of these areas - some of which are also still before the U.S. Supreme Court for a potential, post-election review - Keller and his colleagues say Wolf’s office, the court, or both ran roughshod over the black-and-white provisions of the Election Code as established by the legislature.
“This very unfortunate, volatile, and distressing situation is due to the lack of respect and regard for the law and the U.S. Constitution as well as the Pennsylvania State Constitution,” the GOP Congressmen wrote in a joint statement last week in which they initially announced their intent to oppose the certification.
“Additionally, the failure of Pennsylvania’s justice system to seek the truth, rather than stay silent, allowed these irregular, unlawful actions to create a high level of mistrust in the process as well as a potentially flawed outcome,” the statement said. “If there is an American ideal that all citizens, regardless of party affiliation, can agree upon is that we must have election integrity. Election integrity is the only way to ensure trust in our elections and it is accomplished by adhering to our Constitution and the law.”
Efforts to reach Wolf’s office for a response were not successful by presstime for this report.
Keller, whose 12th District includes Mifflin, Juniata and Perry counties, said certification supporters’ claims that the Republican’s objections undermine our system of popular elections are so much political hyperbole.
All the objectors are doing, he said, is exercising their options under federal election law, just like some Democrats in Congress did after the election of former President George W. Bush in 2004. Critics of the current effort note that in that instance, Democratic nominee John Kerry had conceded and was not actively seeking ways to reverse the counts.
“I have to be able to look the people at the people I work for, in the eye, and say: ‘Did I do my job? Or didn’t I?’... And guess what, I did,” Keller said.
U.S. Rep. John Joyce, a Blair County Republican whose 13th District includes Franklin, Adams and western Cumberland County, announced his opposition to the certification last week, stating: “We cannot have truly free and fair elections unless American voters have confidence in the results. In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf’s unlawful actions – coupled with the hastily passed Act 77 – shrouded this year’s election and spurred rabid distrust in the system...
“For the sake of our liberty and our American values, I will stand up for President Trump – and our American democracy – by objecting to the Electoral College certification on January 6.”
PennLive also reached out Monday to three other midstate Congressmen supporting the objections to the Biden certification - Reps. Scott Perry, R-York County, Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster County, and Dan Meuser, R-Luzerne County - but was unsuccessful in reaching them.
The other Pennsylvania House members who signed on to the joint statement included Reps. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Allegheny County, G.T. Thompson, R-Centre County, and Mike Kelly, R-Butler County.