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Sen. Ted Cruz. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

A growing number of Republican senators — led by Ted Cruz — announced today they also will object to certifying state Electoral College votes on Wednesday and called for resurrecting an Electoral Commission to conduct an emergency audit of the results.

Why it matters: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had hoped to avoid the spectacle of his party leading a last-ditch effort to prevent Joe Biden from being declared the 2020 election winner, but Josh Hawley of Missouri said he would raise a general objection and now other Republican senators plan to air more specific grievances.

Driving the news: Cruz, who, like Hawley, is thought to be considering a 2024 presidential bid, released a statement this afternoon announcing his plans, shortly after Axios first reported about them. Several other GOP senators are now expected to follow in a coordinated effort they consider distinct from Hawley's.

  • Republicans involved include Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.), as well as Sens.-elect Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.).

What they're saying: "Congress should immediately appoint an Electoral Commission, with full investigatory and fact-finding authority, to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states. Once completed, individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed," the senators said in a joint statement.

  • The group noted a similar commission - made of five representatives, five senators and five Supreme Court justices - reviewed allegations of fraud in the 1876 election.
  • “Accordingly, we intend to vote on Jan. 6 to reject the electors from disputed states as not ‘regularly given’ and ‘lawfully certified’ (the statutory requisite), unless and until that emergency 10-day audit is completed."

The backstory: Some Democrats have occasionally raised individual objections to certifying the Electoral College results, but a large-scale, partisan objection would turn a usually procedural action into a challenge of a bedrock of American democracy: the peaceful transfer of power.

  • The House and Senate are set to meet Wednesday for a Joint Session in which the individual Electoral College counts from each state are announced.
  • Any member can raise an objection. If both a representative and a senator object to an individual state's result, members of the House and Senate head to their separate chambers to debate and vote on whether to uphold the challenge. Each vote could take up to two hours.
  • McConnell has described any vote Wednesday as the "most consequential" of his political career, and other Republican senators are anxious about having to publicly choose between upholding the results and bolstering President Trump's claims of election fraud.
  • While numerous courts up to the Supreme Court have thrown out election challenges made by the Trump campaign and other supporters, these senators are concerned that voting against the president's wishes will prompt him to support an opponent against them in 2022 and beyond.

Timing: The Senate certification vote will come just a day after two runoff elections in Georgia. If Democrats were to win both races, it would result in a 50-50 split chamber with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris wielding tie-breaking power on behalf of the Democrats.

  • Regardless of the results, though, Sen. David Perdue's term will officially expire at the end of the current Congress, which occurs Sunday.
  • The Georgia Republican's seat will remain temporarily vacant until the results are certified, leaving just 99 senators. The certification could take up to two weeks.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional senator names and text from the group's statement.

Go deeper

Democrats aim to punish House GOP for Capitol riot

Speaker Nancy Pelosi passes through a newly installed metal detector at the House floor entrance Thursday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Democrats plan to take advantage of corporate efforts to cut funding for Republicans who opposed certifying the 2020 election results, with a plan to target vulnerable members in the pivotal 2022 midterms for their role in the Jan. 6 violence.

Why it matters: It's unclear whether the Democrats' strategy will manifest itself in ads or earned media in the targeted races or just be a stunt to raise money for themselves. But the Capitol violence will be central to the party's messaging as it seeks to maintain its narrow majorities in Congress.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

Jan 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

GOP holdouts press on with plans to crush Cheney

Screenshot of emails to a member of Congress from individuals who signed an Americans for Limited Government petition against Rep. Liz Cheney. Photo obtained by Axios

Pro-Trump holdouts in the House are forging ahead with an uphill campaign to oust Rep. Liz Cheney as head of the chamber’s Republican conference even though Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told them to back down.

Why it matters: What happens next will be a test of McCarthy's party control and the sincerity of his opposition to the movement. Cheney (R-Wyo.) is seen as a potential leadership rival to the California Republican.

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