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What to Expect When Congress Meets Wednesday

GOP objections to vote count could delay certification for 12 hours
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2021 12:58 PM CST

(Newser) – By now, everyone knows the drill: Congress meets Wednesday to formally certify the electoral college results, with VP Mike Pence scheduled to preside. This is normally routine stuff, with the joint session lasting all of 23 minutes in 2013 and 41 minutes in 2017, notes CBS News. But the 2021 version is expected to last all day and possibly into the wee hours of Thursday morning because of Republican objections on behalf of President Trump. Coverage:

  • The schedule: Congress convenes at 1pm Eastern, and Republicans are expected to challenge the results in six states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin), per NBC News. Each objection can be debated up to two hours, meaning it's possible the session will go longer than 12 hours.

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  • The process: States are called one by one, alphabetically. If things follow the normal procedure, a clerk will hand Pence an envelope with the state's electoral vote count, and he will read it aloud, explains the Washington Post. Congress then votes on whether to accept the results.
  • Objections: For the six states in question, one member from the House and one from the Senate must raise an objection for a challenge to proceed. At that point, the chambers break off to separately debate it. Then each chamber votes on whether to sustain the objection, with a simple majority prevailing, per NPR. It's possible an objection might clear the Senate, though it's all but impossible in the Democratic-controlled House. Because an objection must clear both chambers to succeed, the effort is widely seen as a futile one for Trump's allies.
  • So far: As of Tuesday, we know this of the GOP senators: Ted Cruz will object to Arizona's results, Josh Hawley to Pennsylvania's, and Kelly Loeffler to Georgia's, reports the Post.
  • Pence's role: President Trump and his allies think otherwise, but an explainer at New York concludes that Pence doesn't have the power to override results in favor of the president. "According to law and precedent, Pence is confined to the merely administrative chore of opening the certifications state elected officials have sent to Congress, arranging for their tabulation and then noting any challenges to a given state’s announced electors from members of Congress."
(Read more electoral college stories.)

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