Four years ago, Joe Biden presided over a joint session of Congress at which 2016 presidential electoral votes were officially tallied. House Democrats repeatedly objected to the electoral votes
Four years ago, on January 6, 2017, then-Vice President Joe Biden presided over a joint session of Congress at which 2016 presidential electoral votes were officially tallied. House Democrats repeatedly tried to object to electoral votes from multiples states, with Biden gaveling them down each time for failing to follow the rules.
Their objections to the electoral votes needed to be in writing and signed by both a member of the House and Senate. Yet every House member who rose to object did so without a senator’s signature. As a result, Biden shut down each of them.
Among the eleven Democrats whose objections Vice President Biden rejected four years ago was Maryland’s own Rep. Jamie Raskin.
During the vote tabulation, three protesters started yelling from the visitors’ gallery of the chamber. At least one of them was reciting the Constitution as he was taken away by security.
According to CNN’s account: “Biden did not look thrilled.”[i]
The same process occurred in 2001. In a bitter twist that year, it was that election’s loser, Vice President Al Gore, who presided over his loss as the Senate’s President.
When Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), was asked by Vice President Gore whether she had followed the rules and had her point of order signed by a senator, Waters responded: ‘I don’t care that it is not signed by a senator.’
Responded Vice President Gore to Waters: ‘You will be advised that the rules do care.”[ii]
Gore certainly comes to mind if any Vice President were tempted to reject an Electoral College vote count. Yet just as Vice President Pence did earlier this week, he saw his constitutional role as performing a ministerial act. [iii]
That is defined as “an act, particularly of a governmental employee, which is performed according to statutes, legal authority, established procedures or instructions from a superior, without exercising any individual judgment.”[iv] The key phrase then, is, “without exercising any individual judgment.”
To be very clear, this year’s attempts by demonstrators to enter the United States Capitol and to engage violently with law enforcement needs to be rejected in the strongest possible terms. Congress should have been allowed to conduct its proceedings of certifying the Electoral College vote without disruption or the threat of physical intimidation.
My Duckpin colleague, Brian Griffith, among others, has called for Congressional resignations because of some members’ role in questioning the Electoral College vote. Respectfully, neither the voters in Maryland Congressional District 1 – nor four years ago in District 8 – should be deprived of representation for their member’s advocacy.
[iii] an act, particularly of a governmental employee, which is performed according to statutes, legal authority, established procedures or instructions from a superior, without exercising any individual judgment.