In a break from President Donald Trump’s effort to subvert the 2020 election results, Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday he does not believe he has the power to reject electoral votes.
“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” he wrote in a lengthy letter to Congress, contradicting Trump’s baseless claims.
Pence, who is presiding over Congress’ certification of electoral votes Wednesday, released his remarks while Trump was addressing thousands of supporters who had gathered in Washington, D.C., to hear him dismiss the results of the election he lost to President-elect Joe Biden in November by more than 7 million votes.
“The presidency belongs to the American people, and to them alone,” Pence countered, in a rare defiance of Trump.
In his letter to Congress, Pence said he believed lawmakers have the right to challenge votes but that he is unable to initiate that process.
“Some believe that as Vice President, I should be able to accept or reject electoral votes unilaterally,” he said. “Others believe that electoral votes should never be challenged in a Joint Session of Congress. After a careful study of our Constitution, our laws and our history I believe neither view is correct.”
Just over a dozen Republican senators have vowed to contest the election results on Wednesday’s certification, but their objections can only succeed if both chambers vote in support of them, a prospect with essentially zero chance of happening. With Republican support for his crusade dwindling, Trump insisted that Pence could unilaterally reject the certification.
The vice president dismissed that notion, saying his “role as presiding officer is largely ceremonial” and that it’s historically unprecedented for a vice president to intervene in the way Trump insists he should.
“Vesting the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide presidential contests would be entirely antithetical” to the Constitution, Pence wrote.
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