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Jan. 3, 2021, 11:32 a.m. EST

Ranks of Republicans planning challenge to Biden’s election grow — drawing intraparty rebuke from Romney, Sasse, Murkowski, Toomey

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A growing number of Republican lawmakers are joining President Donald Trump’s extraordinary effort to overturn the election, pledging to reject the results when Congress meets next week to count the Electoral College votes and certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas on Saturday announced a coalition of 11 senators and senators-elect who have been enlisted for Trump’s effort to undo the will of American voters as expressed by a popular-vote victory margin of more than 7 million and a certified Electoral College winning margin of 306-232.

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This follows the declaration from Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who was the first to buck Senate leadership by saying he would join with House Republicans in objecting to the state tallies during Wednesday’s joint session of Congress.

See: Sasse says Trump and fellow Senate Republican Hawley are engaging in ‘dangerous ploy’ in seeking to obstruct certification of Biden win

Trump’s refusal to accept his defeat is tearing the party apart as Republicans are forced to make consequential choices that will set the contours of the post-Trump era. Hawley and Cruz are both believed to view themselves as leading 2024 contenders for the Republican presidential nomination.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had urged his party not to try to overturn what nonpartisan election officials have concluded was a free and fair vote.

The 11 senators largely acknowledged Saturday they will not succeed in preventing Biden from being inaugurated on Jan. 20 after he won the Electoral College by 74 votes. But their challenges, and those from House Republicans, represent the most sweeping effort to undo a presidential election outcome since the Civil War.

“We do not take this action lightly,” Cruz and the other senators said in a joint statement.

They vowed to vote against certain state electors on Wednesday unless Congress appoints an electoral commission to immediately conduct an audit of the election results. They are zeroing in on the states where Trump has raised unfounded claims of voter fraud. Congress is unlikely to agree to their demand.

The group, which presented no new evidence of election problems, includes Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Steve Daines of Montana, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Mike Braun of Indiana, and Sens.-elect Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.

Biden’s transition spokesman, Mike Gwin, dismissed the effort as a “stunt” that won’t change the fact that Biden will be sworn in Jan. 20.

Trump, the first president to lose a reelection bid in almost 30 years, has attributed his defeat to widespread voter fraud, despite the consensus of nonpartisan election officials and even Trump’s attorney general that there was none. Of the roughly 50 lawsuits the president and his allies have filed challenging election results, nearly all have been dismissed or dropped. He’s also lost twice at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The days ahead are expected to do little to change the outcome. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the panel overseeing the Electoral College count. said the Republican effort to create a federal commission “to supersede state certifications” is wrong.

“It is undemocratic. It is un-American. And fortunately it will be unsuccessful. In the end, democracy will prevail,” she said in a statement.

The convening of the joint session to count the Electoral College votes is usually routine. While objections have surfaced before — in 2017, several House Democrats challenged Trump’s win — few have approached this level of intensity.

On the other side of the Republican divide, several senators spoke out Saturday against Cruz and Hawley’s effort.

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