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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Explained: As Congress meets to certify Biden, here’s why Pence cannot help Trump remain President

In a constitutionally prescribed moment, which will be broadcast on television, Pence will on January 6 formally name Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 Presidential election.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | January 6, 2021 7:17:02 am
US President Donald Trump and Vice=President Mike Pence. (File Photo)

United States President Donald Trump posted on Twitter on Tuesday evening (India time): “The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors.”

The claim, which was immediately flagged as false by several major American media houses – even though Twitter did not do so – came ahead of the pro forma certification of Electoral College votes at a joint sitting of Congress, over which Vice President Mike Pence will preside.

In a constitutionally prescribed moment, which will be broadcast on television, Pence will on January 6 formally name Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 Presidential election.

While Pence’s aides have said he will follow the Constitution, Trump has long tried to pressure him into using the opportunity to overturn the result of the election, and give him another four years in the White House.

But can Pence do what the President wants him to?

No, the Associated Press had declared almost three weeks ago, when claims began to emerge that Republicans in several battleground states would put up their own sets of electors for Trump, and that Pence would be able to decide on January 6 whether to accept or reject them.

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What is Vice President Pence’s role in the proceedings of January 6?

When Congress meets to accept the electors’ votes, “Pence’s role”, the AP said, “is to open and tally electoral college votes, not decide whether or not they are valid”.

He does not, under the Constitution, have the right to pass a verdict that the President’s claims of voter fraud are true, and that he will not, therefore, certify Biden as the winner.

So what can Trump’s loyalists do?

Loyalists of Trump seeking to stop the certification of Biden as the winner must be able to force – and win – a vote in Congress. Fourteen Republican Senators have already announced that they will object to the certification.

In case an objection is raised, “the House and Senate would spend two hours debating separately and hold a vote that would require majority support in both chambers to pass”, the AP said.

Such an effort would certainly be doomed in the House of Representatives, where the Democrats have a comfortable majority. Besides, “several Republican senators have also signalled they wouldn’t go along with an effort to overturn the election results”, and “Trump simply doesn’t have the votes to change anything”, the AP said.

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