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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

Kaine, Collins' censure resolution seeks to bar Trump from holding office again

Sen. Tim Kaine (center) and Sen. Susan Collins (right). Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool via Getty Images

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are forging ahead with a draft proposal to censure former President Trump, and are considering introducing the resolution on the Senate floor next week.

Why it matters: Senators are looking for a way to condemn Trump on the record as it becomes increasingly unlikely Democrats will obtain the 17 Republican votes needed to gain a conviction, Axios Alayna Treene writes. "I think it’s important for the Senate's leadership to understand that there are alternatives," Kaine told CNN on Wednesday.

Scoop: Stephanie Ruhle to replace Brian Williams on MSNBC

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios.

Details: The 9 am ET hour, currently hosted by Ruhle, will become part of MSNBC's flagship morning show, "Morning Joe," which currently runs from 6 am to 9 am ET.

Oath Keepers leader denied bail on Capitol riot sedition charge

Oath Keepers co-founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

A federal judge ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to remain jailed Wednesday until trial on charges stemming from the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: The judge said the most prominent far-right figure charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection had access to weapons and his alleged "continued advocacy for violence against the federal government" gave credence to prosecutors' view that, if released, Rhodes could endanger others.

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