Tom Cotton Stands up Against Electoral College Challengers: Would ‘Establish Unwise Precedents’

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) speaks as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretar
AL DRAGO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) became the first Republican senator on Sunday night who is actually a supporter of President Donald Trump’s agenda to oppose a challenge of the electoral college, issuing a statement saying he is concerned it would create dangerous precedents that Democrats would all but certainly use in the future to undermine election integrity.

Cotton’s statement comes after a dozen Republican senators last week, beginning with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and continuing this weekend with a group led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), joined what is expected to be more than a hundred House Republicans in challenging the certification of the electoral college before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

It is worth noting that Cotton, in his statement, said he agrees that there are concerns about the election irregularities and that he backs a commission to study this and propose reforms.

“I share the concerns of many Arkansans about irregularities in the presidential election, especially in states that rushed through election-law changes to relax standards for voting-by-mail,” Cotton said. “I also share their disappointment with the election results. I, therefore, support a commission to study the last election and propose reforms to protect the integrity of our elections. And after Republicans win in Georgia, the Senate should also hold more hearings on these matters. All Americans deserve to have confidence in the elections that undergird our free government.”

Vice President Mike Pence, who said through a spokesman he welcomes the challenges, will oversee the joint session of Congress at which this challenge will take place. The challenges will ultimately fail because after House members object to the certification of a state’s slated electors then senators uphold the challenge, the two chambers of Congress retreat and debate and then vote on the challenges. Democrats control the House majority, and even though their majority is slimmer than before November’s elections, it is impossible to see any Democrats breaking ranks — never mind enough to sustain a challenge. Meanwhile, in the Senate, there were already — before Cotton’s statement — more than enough Republicans opposed to the challenges to stop a majority in the GOP-controlled Senate from succeeding. Therefore, the vote is simply symbolic and will not result in the electoral college’s votes to make Democrat Joe Biden the president-elect being overturned or in doubt.

Cotton’s statement continues by explaining that he believes this challenge by Congress to the electoral college is a perversion of the Founders’ intent to have the states run elections, not Congress.

“Nevertheless, the Founders entrusted our elections chiefly to the states — not Congress. They entrusted the election of our president to the people, acting through the Electoral College — not Congress,” Cotton said. “And they entrusted the adjudication of election disputes to the courts — not Congress. Under the Constitution and federal law, Congress’s power is limited to counting electoral votes submitted by the states.”

As such, Cotton said, he believes this could create dangerous precedents that Democrats would all but certainly abuse in the future when it benefitted them politically.

“If Congress purported to overturn the results of the Electoral College, it would not only exceed that power but also establish unwise precedents,” Cotton said. “First, Congress would take away the power to choose the president from the people, which would essentially end presidential elections and place that power in the hands of whichever party controls Congress. Second, Congress would imperil the Electoral College, which gives small states like Arkansas a voice in presidential elections. Democrats could achieve their longstanding goal of eliminating the Electoral College in effect by refusing to count electoral votes in the future for a Republican president-elect. Third, Congress would take another big step toward federalizing election law, another long-standing Democratic priority that Republicans have consistently opposed.”

Because of all of this, and because this effort will not succeed anyway because supporters of it do not have the votes to pull it off, Cotton says he will not back the challenges. He concluded his statement as well by saying he thanks President Donald Trump for all of his successes during his administration and believes in what Trump accomplished, which is why he campaigned for him perhaps more than any other GOP senator — Cotton regularly cut ads that he paid for and aired in battleground states backing up Trump, something most other senators did not do.

“Thus, I will not oppose the counting of certified electoral votes on January 6,” Cotton said. “I’m grateful for what the president accomplished over the past four years, which is why I campaigned vigorously for his reelection. But objecting to certified electoral votes won’t give him a second term — it will only embolden those Democrats who want to erode further our system of constitutional government.”


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