It’s an exciting week in US politics. Immediately after the runoff elections in Georgia, a political spectacle is expected in Congress on the outcome of the presidential election. An overview.
Two weeks before the future US President Joe Biden is sworn in, the last big showdown in the tussle over the election result is due in Congress. At a joint meeting of the House of Representatives and the Senate this Wednesday (from 7 p.m. CET), the election result should be finally confirmed. However, numerous Republican MPs and senators are planning – driven by unsubstantiated allegations of fraud by incumbent President Donald Trump – a disruptive action that will cause internal party upheavals and will likely drag out formal processes considerably. The congress session immediately follows the momentous runoff elections in The US state of Georgia for two Senate seats, which indicated a head-to-head race on Tuesday evening (local time).
Republican Trump had lost the presidential election in early November by a clear margin to his Democratic challenger Biden. Trump refuses to admit defeat. He claims he was robbed of victory by massive fraud. Neither Trump nor his lawyers provided any substantive evidence of this. Dozens of lawsuits from the Trump camp have so far been thrown out of courts, including the US Supreme Court.
The state electors have confirmed Biden’s clear victory. The Democrat got 306 of the 538 votes – 36 more than required. 232 electorates voted for Trump.
The congress confirmation is usually a formality
The formal post-election procedure in the USA stipulates that the results from the individual states must be read out, counted and finally confirmed in Congress. Then it is official who has won the election. It is the end of a long formal act before a new president is sworn in.
Usually it is a formality. This time, however, massive delays and turbulence are to be expected. Republicans from both chambers of congress have announced that they will appeal against the results of individual states during the procedure. According to internal estimates, more than 100 members of the House of Representatives could participate, followed by at least 13 Republicans from the Senate.
Any objection must be submitted in writing – by at least one House Representative and at least one Senator. This can be used to force that both chambers of Congress must withdraw to separate sessions in order to debate the objections and, in the end, to vote whether they should follow them or not. Should objections be raised from both chambers for several states, which is expected, and should each objection be debated and voted individually in separate sessions, the procedure could drag on well into Thursday according to German time.
Can the disruptive action affect the outcome of the election?
The disruptive action has no prospect of changing the outcome of the election. Both chambers of congress would have to agree to an objection to a result, which in view of the majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives is considered impossible. The action is likely to disrupt the processes immensely and create a lot of attention for Trump’s unsubstantiated fraud allegations. At the same time, protests by Trump supporters in Washington are planned during the day, during which the elected president wants to address his supporters directly.
The Democrats criticized the planned disruptive action in Congress as deeply undemocratic. But the project also met with a lot of criticism in the Republican Party. The Republican leadership in the Senate had expressly opposed it. Various high-ranking Republicans rated the project as dangerous.
The meeting will be chaired by incumbent US Vice President Mike Pence. Trump had recently put public pressure on his deputy to intervene in this role and stand up for him there. The Vice President has the power to fraudulently reject selected voters, Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. However, by law, Pence is only allowed to have a ceremonial role at the gathering.
Georgia decides the balance of power in Washington
The congressional session immediately follows the runoff elections in Georgia, which will determine the future Senate majority – and how much leeway Biden can hope for in his first two years in office. Because the election result in the US state depends on whether Biden’s Democrats can still gain control of the Senate. Trump’s Republicans only have one more seat to just barely keep a majority in the House of Representatives. Among other things, the Senate confirms presidential candidates for government posts and can block bills.
On November 3, parallel to the presidential election, around a third of the Senate seats were up for a vote. In Georgia, however, none of the Senate candidates achieved the necessary absolute majority in the first round. That made the runoff elections necessary. Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock challenged previous Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
Head-to-head racing is looming in Georgia
A few hours after the polling stations closed, another head-to-head race emerged. After more than three quarters of the votes were counted, according to the US media on Tuesday evening (local time), the opponents were almost tied in both races.
The democratic candidates would both have to prevail so that there is a stalemate with 50 to 50 votes in the chamber. A stalemate could then be resolved ex officio by the future US Vice President Kamala Harris in favor of the Democrats.