This past Presidential election and its aftermath have caused many Americans to raise questions regarding our democracy they never expected to have before. While the President continued to deny the election’s results, citing wild conspiracies of mass voter fraud, rigged voting machines and illegally cast ballots, something unexpected happened… Republicans actually went along with the narrative. But these Republicans weren’t just any Republicans - they were members of The United States House and Senate.
Eight senators and one-hundred-thirty-nine representatives. That's how many lawmakers voted to overturn election results for either Arizona, Pennsylvania or both, even after the devastating capitol riots shut down the congressional proceedings. Whether these lawmakers did this strictly for political gain or from a true belief that the election was fraudulent, we may never actually know. But the votes raise another question amongst the public. Did these Republican lawmakers violate their oath of office? In the oath of office, lawmakers swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”. Does their rhetoric discrediting a free and fair election as well as their votes in the house and senate violate this oath? It appears clear even to some Republican lawmakers that, to some extent, Trump’s words and actions regarding the election contributed to the eventual storming of the capitol by destructive right-wing rioters on January 6th. The over 140 lawmakers that went along with Trump’s message, the majority of whom voted to overturn election results even after the riots, may need to be called into question as well.
Some Democrats in the House have introduced legislation to investigate the actions of these Republican lawmakers. House Resolution 25, introduced by Representative Cori Bush of St. Louis, aims to launch an investigation into lawmakers who sought to overturn the election’s results. Specifically, the resolution seeks to have the Committee on Ethics investigate whether actions by the members of congress who opposed the election’s outcome violated their oaths of office. Furthermore, it asks that the committee consider whether or not those members should face sanction or removal.
Two Republican Senators in particular, Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, have faced the most criticism from the public as well as former lawmakers. Calls on the two to resign reigned across social media following their votes to overturn election results. Following calls for his resignation, Cruz took to TV interviews to deflect blame, calling Trump’s rhetoric irresponsible and insisting his proposal of a ten-day emergency audit of election results was in the spirit of ensuring transparency with the American public. For Senator Hawley, while the criticism from fellow lawmakers threatens his political career, a group of attorneys in his home state threaten the status of his ability to practice law. So far 60 lawyers have signed on to a formal complaint asking the Missouri Supreme Court to investigate Senator Hawley’s actions prior to the Capitol Riots and their potential role in inciting the violence. The complaint also, like House Resolution 25, will ask the court to determine whether the Senator violated his oath of office.
Many Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives face criticism for their rhetoric in the days leading up to the capitol riot as well. Newly elected Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado promoted the event across their social media, even publicly referring to it as a “1776 moment”. Paul Gosar, representative of Arizona, also promoted the protest. He suggested President Trump was the victim of an attempted coup and told supporters the election had been stolen.These claims were taken to heart by millions of Trump voters, driving many to DC the morning of January 6th. Americans have a difficult question to ponder - did these elected officials lend credibility to a wild conspiracy that resulted in a violent riot? Did that credibility encourage the protestors that eventually stormed the capitol grounds? Had these members of Congress acknowledged Biden’s victory from the moment it was called, perhaps the circumstances would have been different. It is possible that without these elected officials support, Trump would have changed his strategy, even had Trump continued to claim victory, perhaps the American public wouldn’t have bought into the nonsense had their representatives acknowledge reality. Instead, they encouraged the noise and added to it. Now five people are dead and an American President faces his second impeachment trial. It is likely the impeachment trial of former President Trump will have a major influence on the repercussions Republican lawmakers face, if any. Should President Trump be found guilty of helping incite violence at the U.S. Capitol, it would seem likely the Republicans that supported his narrative of a fraudulent election could be found responsible as well. If President Trump is not impeached, it will be difficult to guess how House Democrats will proceed with House Resolution 25.
So far however, President Biden has appeared to oppose the removal of lawmakers that refused the election results. Instead, when asked about Senators Hawley and Cruz, Biden said he’d prefer that voters be the ones to remove them from office. Should President Biden choose to take a harsher stance on the matter, it may come with some political ramifications. The Biden Administration has thus far pushed the theme of ‘unity’ as their priority since the inauguration. While the actions of Republican lawmakers that sought to overturn the election’s results appear to be unconstitutional, should Biden seek to influence the decisions made by House Democrats regarding the matter, it could discredit his message of bringing the nation together. Furthermore, with 72 percent of Republican voters continuing to question the election’s results, it is possible President Biden fears any role he plays in this process could spur even more conspiracy theories and misinformation regarding his election.So for the time being, it's up to House Democrats to move forward with House Resolution 25 and launch an investigation into whether or not some Republican lawmakers violated their oath of office. Should the resolution move forward and those investigated be found guilty - we could see some lawmakers removed from office. Should nothing happen at all, a terrible precedent could be set for the United States. A precedent in which lawmakers are free to push claims they likely know to be false for the benefit of their political career. A precedent where elected officials put party over country. A precedent that disregards the oath to the constitution.
So while President Biden calls for unity for the betterment of our nation, progressives should demand accountability for the very same reason. Lawmakers whose words and actions threaten the very fabric of our democracy deserve to be investigated as to whether or not they are fit to protect that very same democracy. It is time for these Republicans Senators and House Members to be held responsible for their actions and for America to move on from the madness of the past four years.