Congress will meet Wednesday, Jan. 6, to formally count the votes cast by the Electoral College – 306 for Biden, 232 for President Donald Trump. It takes 270 to win the White House.
The meeting, required by the U.S. Constitution, also marks one of the last opportunities for Trump and his allies to protest his loss.
For months, Trump has unsuccessfully tried to overturn election results in six battleground states, falsely claiming the election was stolen despite no evidence of widespread fraud.
The Supreme Court has twice refused to take up Trump-endorsed lawsuits that sought to reverse the results. Federal and state courts have also dismissed his claims of voter fraud nearly 60 times.
The joint session on Wednesday is all but certain to result in one more defeat for Trump, even though several of his Republican allies have indicated they will object to the certification of electoral votes for Biden.
Outside the Capitol, protests are expected by supporters of Trump.
Here’s what to expect when the lawmakers meet.
What is the procedure for the count?
Members of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate will meet in a joint session at 1 p.m. in the House Chamber. The procedures for the session come from the Electoral Count Act of 1887.
Vice President Mike Pence will preside in his role as president of the Senate. Leaders of both major parties will appoint lawmakers from both chambers to serve as „tellers.”
Pence will open certificates of the electoral votes from each state – whose electors met to cast their ballots on Dec. 14 – and hand them to the tellers to read aloud. As they read a state’s certificate, Pence will call for objections to the state’s votes.
To be considered, objections must be made in writing and endorsed by at least one member of both the House and Senate.
Any objection that meets that criteria will result in a suspension of the joint session, at which time the House and Senate will convene separately to consider the issue.
The debate on each objection is limited to two hours. Each member may only speak for one, five-minute stint. After debate concludes, the House and Senate will vote.
A simple majority in both chambers is required to uphold the objection and throw out the state’s votes. Short of that, the objection is disposed of and the state’s electoral votes are counted as cast.
Rebecca Green, an election law expert at the William and Mary School of Law, told USA TODAY that “the sole purpose of this convening is for Congress to determine which ballots are the ballots that were certified by the states.”
„This is not a trial where Congress will look at evidence of fraud in the election,” Green said. “There are no witnesses. There is no evidence presented. And there’s a very limited opportunity to speak for that reason.”
After all votes are counted, it falls to Pence to declare the winner of the election.
So far, Pence – who has not acknowledged that Trump lost his bid for reelection – has remained relatively quiet on his role in the electoral vote count process.
On Dec. 28, Republicans including Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert filed a lawsuit in federal court to authorize Pence to pick and choose which electoral votes to accept or reject. In a filing on Dec. 31, Pence asked the judge to dismiss the suit, which his brief called „a walking legal contradiction.”
Legal experts have also predicted the suit will fail, saying it is a based on a far-fetched premise that the Constitution affords the vice president complete authority to decide an election.
Will there be any objections?
Multiple House Republicans have indicated that they will object to some state’s electoral votes, citing alleged electoral fraud, though there is no proof to back any of their claims.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., has led the charge. He and other conservatives met with Trump and Pence at the White House on Dec. 21 to discuss the effort.
Others who have committed to object to votes include Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, Rep-elect Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J., Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C, and Gohmert.
There are plans by „dozens” of House members to challenge the results in at least six states, according to Brooks.
“We’re going to sponsor and co-sponsor objections to the Electoral College vote returns of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and maybe more depending on where we collectively want to go,” he said on Fox & Friends.
Top Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have discouraged their members from backing objections to electoral votes.
McConnell, who himself has recognized President-elect Biden, told colleagues that an objection „isn’t in the best interest of everybody,” according to a report from The Hill.
Nonetheless, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., announced on Dec. 30 that he plans to raise an objection to electoral votes in at least one state – Pennsylvania.
„I cannot vote to certify the electoral college results on January 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws,” Hawley wrote on Twitter.
Hawley told reporters at the U.S. Capitol that „a number of offices have reached out” to say they, too, are interested in objecting.
„I don’t know yet,” he said of whether more senators will join him. „I would think that there would be more, but there may not be, I don’t know. Too early to say.”
Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from Alabama, has also indicated he may object to some votes.
„You’ll see what’s coming,” he said earlier this month. „You’ve been reading about in the House. We’re going to have to do it in the Senate.”
It’s possible that some, but not all, of the objections raised by members of the House will obtain the backing of a senator. Each objection that receives both will elicit its own two-hour debate and vote, potentially turning the meeting into a marathon affair.
Have there been objections before?
There have been previous objections to electoral votes. At times, members of the House have attempted to raise objections without support from the Senate.
In 2017, half a dozen House Democrats objected to electoral votes for Trump, citing voter suppression and potential interference from Russia.
But Biden, then-vice president and president of the Senate, repeatedly slammed his gavel and rejected the effort, since they lacked a Senate sponsor.
“It is over,” he said, to applause from Republicans.
Just twice – in 1969 and 2005 – have there been objections that met the criteria to require the House and Senate to debate and vote.
In 1969, the objection was over a faithless elector from North Carolina who voted for George Wallace instead of Richard Nixon. It was rejected by both chambers.
In 2005, the objection was over electoral votes in Ohio, cast for George W. Bush.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., joined Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, in the action, which they said was to raise awareness about voter suppression.
„This objection does not have at its root the hope or even the hint of overturning the victory of the president,” Tubbs Jones said at the time. „But it is a necessary, timely and appropriate opportunity to review and remedy the most precious process in our democracy.”
The objection was roundly defeated, receiving a single vote in the Senate, from Boxer herself, and just 31 votes in the House, all from Democrats.
Could an objection succeed this year?
In short, no. Like previous objections, there is virtually no chance that any objections lodged next week will succeed.
The most straightforward reason the objections will fail is that they must be approved by both chambers, and Democrats control the House.
The Senate is harder to predict. The runoff for seats in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate is set to take place just a day before, on Jan. 5.
Before those members are seated, Republicans will maintain a majority.
Given the lack of support from leaders like McConnell, though, it’s unlikely that Senate Republicans will rally behind an objection to the certification of Biden as the winner.
Earlier this month, Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters that an objection „would go down like a shot dog” in the Senate.
„I just don’t think it makes a lot of sense to put everybody through this when you know what the ultimate outcome is going to be,” said Thune, who is from South Dakota.
Other Republicans in the Senate have also indicated they disagree with Trump’s continued efforts to overturn the election.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., took to Facebook to rebuke GOP lawmakers who plan to participate in what he called a „dangerous ploy” on Jan. 6 to contest the results.
„For President-Elect Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College victory to be overturned, President Trump would need to flip multiple states. But not a single state is in legal doubt,” Sasse wrote.
„All the clever arguments and rhetorical gymnastics in the world won’t change the fact that this January 6th effort is designed to disenfranchise millions of Americans simply because they voted for someone in a different party,” he added. „We ought to be better than that.”
Regardless of the outcome in the Senate, without the approval of the House, objections will not affect vote totals.
Though the challenges are doomed to fail, they will extend the vote counting process far longer than normal.
The joint session took just 23 minutes in 2013 and 41 minutes in 2017, according to the Congressional Research Service. Not this time.
If all six planned objections from the House receive support from a member of the Senate, total debate time could exceed 12 hours. Speaking to POLITICO, Brooks predicted that the proceedings will last even longer, clocking in at 18 hours.
If that’s case, the meeting will wrap up sometime on Jan. 7 – and at long last, end the presidential election.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Congress will count electoral votes on Jan. 6, formalizing Biden’s win
The results of the Jan. 5 vote will determine which party controls the Senate. More than 3 million Georgia voters — including those in heavily Democratic areas and African-American voters — have already voted during the state’s early voting period.
Trump issued his baseless conclusion in a Twitter thread Friday night when he attacked the election process in the state, which is controlled by Republicans.
In his slam, Trump wrote that the Georgia “consent decree” is “unconstitutional.” He was referring to a bipartisan decree forged by the Democratic Party and GOP election officials in March that helped establish standards for judging valid signatures on absentee ballots. Lawsuits challenging the decree on Trump’s behalf have failed.
“The Georgia Consent Decree is Unconstitutional & the State 2020 Presidential Election … is therefore both illegal and invalid, and that would include the two current Senatorial Elections,” Trump tweeted.
There was no immediate comment from Loeffler or Perdue about their “invalid” races.
Axios co-founder Mike Allen told CNBC Thursday that many Republicans believe Trump has been deliberately sabotaging the Georgia race. (Check out the video up top.)
“There’s a big strain of thought among Republicans that President Trump is sabotaging this race,” Allen explained. “He’s done so much to be unhelpful to those candidates. [Republicans] say he must be thinking: ‘I want to send a message. If I’m not on the ballot, Republicans are in trouble.’”
Trump’s ideas are veering dangerously close to the thoughts of his rightwing fringe allies, attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood. Both lawyers have advised Republicans to boycott voting in the runoff unless the presidential race is overturned.
Wood has also recently suggested that Vice President Mike Pence is guilty of treason and will be executed (by firing squad), that the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein is actually alive, and that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is part of a murderous pedophile cult.
Some Democrats — and anti-Trump Republicans — thought the president might be on to something.
Also on HuffPost
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. has seen increasing indications that Iran could be planning an attack against American forces or interests in the Middle East, according to a U.S. official.
The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that reading Iran’s intentions was “difficult and at times unpredictable.”
But the indications are being taken seriously, the official said. The one-year anniversary of the U.S.’ killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani is just days away.
Soleimani was killed in a U.S. dronestrike in Iraq on Jan. 3, 2020, in what the Defense Department characterized as a „defensive action” because it alleged the leader of Iran’s Quds Force was developing plans to attack Americans. Iran launched missiles against U.S. forces in Iraq in response to the killing days later.
This week, the U.S. flew B-52 bombers based at a Minot, North Dakota, Air Force base to the Middle East in a „deliberate appearance,” U.S. Central Command said, in the second such show of force this month.
The U.S. has recently accused what it said was an Iranian-backed militia of a Dec. 20 rocket attack on Baghdad’s green zone, in which 21 rockets were fired. No one was injured or killed.
Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, in a Tweet on Thursday objected to the B-52 flights and wrote: „Intelligence from Iraq indicate plot to FABRICATE pretext for war.”
On Dec. 23, referring to the rocket attack that damaged the U.S. embassy in the green zone, President Donald Trump had tweeted: „Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over.”
„We’d be happy with de-escalation,” the U.S. official said Thursday, adding that amid the uncertainty, the situation continues to be watched closely.
The tensions come weeks before president-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in, and the Iranian regime has sent clear signals that it wants U.S. sanctions lifted — something an attack could jeopardize.
Also on Thursday, the aircraft carrier the USS Nimitz was ordered to return to its U.S homeport after a 10-month deployment to the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, the Pentagon said.
“We continue to watch Iran very closely,” Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller told NBC News in a statement late Thursday.
“While it is my hope that we enter 2021 peacefully and without conflict, the Department is at the ready to defend the American people and her interests,” he said.
The US has increased security over its military personnel in the Middle East as it braces for a potential attack ahead of the anniversary of an American drone strike that killed a senior Iranian general.
Two American B-52 bombers flew over the Persian Gulf on Wednesday in the latest effort to show off the country’s military force in the region and deter Iran.
Pentagon officials said they were braced for the possibility that Iran could order military retaliation for the US assassination of Qassim Soleimani, the country’s most powerful military commander, on January 3 last year.
It follows rising tensions between Washington and Tehran as Donald Trump enters his final days in the White House before Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
Ahead of the anniversary, the US embassy in Baghdad announced that it was sending 30 armoured vehicles to help the Iraqi army secure the Green Zone.
In the weeks leading up to the anniversary of the assassination, several rockets have been fired at Baghdad’s Green Zone, although they have not caused any casualties.
Mr Trump has warned against „additional attacks against Americans in Iraq”, saying he would „hold Iran responsible” for any casualties.
US intelligence officials believe there are indications that Iran is planning a fresh attack on American interests and allies in Iraq to coincide with the one year anniversary of the killing of Soleimani.
“The United States continues to deploy combat-ready capabilities into the US Central Command area of responsibility to deter any potential adversary, and make clear that we are ready and able to respond to any aggression directed at Americans or our interests,” said Marine General Frank McKenzie, chief of US Central Command.
“We do not seek conflict, but no one should underestimate our ability to defend our forces or to act decisively in response to any attack.”
The comments came as the Pentagon disclosed that two American B-52 bombers completed a 30-hour mission from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to the Middle East on Wednesday.
It was the third time in six weeks that US bombers flew long-range flights about 60 miles off the Iranian coast. Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister said Thursday that Iran is not looking for a war with the US, but will defend itself if necessary.
„Instead of fighting Covid in US, Donald Trump and cohorts waste billions to fly B52s and send armadas to our region. Intelligence from Iraq indicate plot to fabricate pretext for war (sic),” he said in a tweet.
“Iran doesn’t seek war but will OPENLY & DIRECTLY defend its people, security & vital interests,” he added.