President Trump’s dogged effort to ignore the voters, state election officials, the courts and the Electoral College has come down to his latest wild idea — that he’ll just get Vice President Mike Pence to steal the thing for him.
“The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
What Trump is talking about is the counting of electoral votes during today’s joint session of Congress that convenes at 1 p.m. ET today to accept the votes cast by the Electoral College in December.
Under an 1887 law, Pence will preside over the gathering in his role as president of the Senate. It’s his job to call on a small group of lawmakers known as tellers who will read out the electoral votes sent in by the electors in all 50 states and Washington, DC.
Trump appears to be saying that during this ceremony Pence can unilaterally reject a state’s electoral votes. But just because Trump tweets it does not make it so.
You can read the law here. It’s not the cleanest of language, but it’s pretty clear that only a congressman and senator, together, can object to a state’s electoral votes, and it has to be in writing. There’s nothing in the law about Pence doing anything but calling on tellers and announcing the results.
Any objections — and there could be up to six — lead to a pause in the proceedings while the House and Senate each consider and vote on them. Pence could preside over the Senate during that session. But he can’t vote on anything unless there’s a tie, which he does have the power to break. And given the number of Republicans who have already said they will not support objections to the Electoral College results, there is unlikely to be a tie.
If Pence were to somehow attempt to go rogue, the House and Senate chambers should be able to overturn whatever he does with a vote to appeal the ruling of the chair, former Senate parliamentarian Alan Frumin told CNN’s Ted Barrett— though such a thing has never happened before. (Here are the Senate rules on the subject.)
Frumin added that it would be incumbent on Pence to get a majority of the votes backing his position for his ruling to prevail, an unlikely scenario in the Democratic-controlled House and in the Senate, where at this point most Republicans and all Democrats would oppose such a move.