Mike Pence’s conduct on Jan. 6 matters.
Not to the outcome of the presidential election, but to the process of its resolution. The vice president can either facilitate President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, or he can resist it. Which he chooses will either help or hinder the Republican Party’s recovery from the electoral denialism that afflicts three-fourths of its voters….
If McConnell can keep his caucus in line, he can prevent a debacle for Republicans — but only if Pence sides with McConnell and thus against Trump’s wishes.
Pence can wreck McConnell’s strategy — even if no GOP senator joins Brooks’s hopeless cause. That’s because on Dec. 14, Republicans in up to seven states — without any official status whatsoever — purported to cast votes for Trump, claiming Trump would have won their states were it not for fraud.
Although transparently farcical, these rival submissions have reportedly been sent to Pence, who must present them at the Jan. 6 session. The law calls for Congress to consider all “papers purporting to be certificates of electoral votes,” however frivolous they may be.
Pence could support McConnell by asking Congress to reject these ersatz — even delusional — documents. Pence would propose that the joint session simply count, without objection, the obviously official votes from these states. This would follow the model set by Richard Nixon, who, in the same position as Pence for the 1960 election, handled conflicting submissions of electoral votes from Hawaii. Nixon asked whether there was any objection to counting the Hawaiian electoral votes cast for Kennedy; there being none, that’s what happened.
No one should object if Pence proposes the equivalent treatment of Biden votes. But even if House members do, without a senator’s objection, Pence’s proposal dictates the disposition of the state’s submissions. McConnell would get his wish.
But suppose, upon announcing rival returns from a state, Pence says something like, “I believe the votes cast for President Trump are the true votes, and I propose that Congress count those.” This would force a senator and representative, presumably Democrats, to object in writing to Pence’s proposal, and the two chambers would separate to debate and vote on this objection.
Should this happen, the Senate and House will certainly agree to count the official electoral votes for Biden and discard the crackpot votes for Trump. But Pence’s maneuver would make GOP senators take stands on whether they’re with Biden or Trump, even if McConnell manages to convince his entire caucus not to object to Biden’s votes.