Jan 06 2021
Mr. President, at the time I prepared my remarks for today—it seems like a lifetime ago; a lot has changed in last few hours. So I’m going to deliver the same remarks, but it has a little bit of a different feel than it would have just a few hours ago.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the family members of those who have been injured or killed today. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to the Capitol Hill Police who valiantly defended our building and our lives.
While it is true that legitimate concerns have been raised with regard to how some of the key battleground states conducted their Presidential elections, this is not the end of the story.
We each have to remember that we have sworn an oath to uphold, protect, and defend this document, written nearly two-and-a-half centuries ago by wise men raised up by God to that very purpose. That document makes clear what our role is and what it isn’t. It makes clear who does what when it comes to deciding presidential elections. You see, because in our system of government, presidents are not directly elected. They are chosen by presidential electors.
The Constitution makes very clear under Article II, Section I that the states shall appoint presidential electors according to procedures that their legislatures develop.
Then comes the Twelfth Amendment. It explains what we’re doing here today, here in the Capitol. It explains that the President of the Senate, the Vice President of the United States, shall open the ballots and the votes shall then be counted. It is those words that confine, define, and constrain every scrap of authority that we have in this process.
Our job is to open and then count. Open, then count. That’s it. That’s all there is.
Now there are of course rare instances, instances in which multiple slates of electors can be submitted by the same state. That doesn’t happen very often. It happened in 1960. It happened in 1876. Let’s hope it doesn’t ever happen again.
In those rare moments, Congress has to make a choice. It has to decide which of the electoral votes will be counted and which will not. That did not happen here, thank heavens, and let’s hope that it never does.
Many of my colleagues have raised objections or had previously stated their intent to raise objections with regard to these. I have spent an enormous time on this issue over the last few weeks. I’ve met with lawyers on both sides of the issue. I’ve met with lawyers representing the Trump Campaign, reading everything I could find about the constitutional provisions in question, and I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with legislators and other leaders from the contested states.
I didn’t initially declare my position because I didn’t yet have one. I wanted to get the facts first and I wanted to understand what was happening. I wanted to give the people serving in government in the contested states the opportunity to do whatever they felt they needed to do to make sure that their election was properly reflected.
I spent an enormous amount of time reaching out to state government officials in those states, but in none of the contested states—no, not even one—did I discover any indication that there was any chance that any state legislature, or secretary of state, or governor, or lieutenant governor, that had any intention to alter the slate of electors.
That being the case, our job is a very simple one. This simply isn’t how our federal system is supposed to work. That is to say, if you have concerns with the way that an election in the presidential race was handled in your state, the appropriate response is to approach your state legislatures, first and foremost. These protests, hearing from those who have raised concerns, should have been focused on their state capitols, not their nation’s Capitol.
Because our role is narrow. Our role is defined. Our role is limited.
Yes, we are the election judges, when it comes to members elected to our own body. And yes, the House of Representatives are the judges of their own races. We also have the authority to prescribe, as a Congress, rules governing the time, place, and manner of elections for senators and representatives.
There is no corresponding authority with respect to presidential elections. None, whatsoever. It doesn’t exist.
Our job is to convene, to open the ballots, and to count them. That’s it.
Thank you, Mr. President. You have the floor.