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Congress live updates: Lawmakers to count Electoral College votes, affirming Biden's win in face of Republican challenges

Ledyard King   | USA TODAY
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WASHINGTON – Republicans plan one final stand during Wednesday’s largely ceremonial joint session of Congress to count the presidential electoral votes – the last official step recognizing Joe Biden’s Nov. 3 decisive victory over President Donald Trump.

It’s day that’s expected to be long on drama but ultimately short on substance because there’s no legal or official path for Republicans to overturn an election that’s already been certified.

But bipartisan opponents of the broad effort backed by dozens of GOP lawmakers and cheered on by Trump worry it could set a dangerous precedent for a country that’s been an international model for the peaceful transition of power.

Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential nominee in 2012, has denounced the “egregious ploy to reject electors," saying it "may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic."

Several GOP lawmakers plan to raise objections to the results of at least three and as many as six states Biden won – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The objections could center on a number of conspiracies that Trump himself has pushed: allegations of widespread voter fraud, late-arriving ballots for Biden, or that governors who expanded mail-in voting during a pandemic unconstitutionally went around their state legislatures to do so.

As GOP lawmakers prepare to spend hours laying out their objections, thousands of Trump allies are expected to gather outside the Capitol Building to voice their support for the largely symbolic move. Trump himself is expected to address his supporters near the White House and the National Guard has been activated to quell potential violence.

It won’t change the results.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia already have certified the results, giving Biden a 306-232 advantage and control of the White House come Jan. 20. Those state-by-state results will be announced as part of a roll call Wednesday in a session that will be presided over by Vice President Mike Pence in his role as president of the Senate.

“Congressmen and Senators have a stark choice,” said Alabama GOP Rep. Mo Brooks, who plans to object to the results in all six states. “They can either vote to ratify or vote to reject voter fraud, illegal ballots and election theft. This is not a time to cower in fox holes.”

Republicans also are expected to push for a commission to look at election irregularities (similar to what Democrats called for in the aftermath of the Bush v. Gore election in 2000).

Official objections to each state could lead to as much as two hours of debate although congressional aides say that could drag out to three or four hours apiece due to the time needed to set up the debate in each chamber on each objection.

Typically, past sessions have wrapped up in an afternoon. But Wednesday’s session, which begins at 1 p.m., could drag on well beyond midnight.

Some Trump supporters falsely believe Pence, in his role as president of the Senate, can throw out electoral votes based on the objections of GOP lawmakers. But Pence lacks that legal authority, putting him in the awkward position of having to announce Biden's electoral victory once the votes are counted.

Even if he could, the objections to consider not counting a particular state’s electoral votes have to be approved by both chambers and the Democratic-run House would never agree. In addition, Congress has never awarded a state’s electoral votes to a candidate whose victory was not certified.

In effect, Congress is expected to agree with the nearly 60 verdicts that state and federal courts have rendered: there was no widespread voter fraud and therefor no reason to keep Joe Biden from becoming the nation’s 46th president.

– Ledyard King