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5 Southern senators, 79 U.S. House members support challenge to electoral vote count

Unsuccessful move to overturn Joe Biden’s win interrupted by mob insurrection at U.S. Capitol

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Despite an afternoon of violence that left four people dead and lawmakers running for cover, five Southern Republican U.S. senators and 79 of the region’s GOP U.S. House members persisted in supporting objections to President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College win that were overwhelmingly defeated once order was restored.

All of the Republican House members representing Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia supported at least one of the objections to the counts of Biden’s win. By contrast, only a single member from both Kentucky and Arkansas voted yes.

Joint sessions of Congress counts electoral vote (From C-SPAN)

Five Southern senators voted in favor of at least one of the objections filed to electoral vote results from Arizona and Pennsylvania, two swing states Biden flipped in November: Ted Cruz of Texas, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Rick Scott of Florida and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, who just took his seat on Sunday.

Cruz, the Senate sponsor of the Arizona challenge, voting in favor of objections to both states, along with Hyde-Smith and Tuberville. Kennedy only objected to Arizona, while Scott only objected to Pennsylvania.

The remaining 22 Southern Republican senators opposed both challenges, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had warned earlier in the day that challenging the will of voters would plunge American democracy into a “death spiral,” and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of President Donald Trump’s most fervent supporters, who told his fellow senators that “enough is enough.”

“When it’s over, it is over,” Graham said. “[Biden] won. He’s the legitimate president of the United States.”

Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, who had previously announced that she would support objections to the electoral vote, took the Senate floor to say that she changed her mind after Wednesday’s violent incursion into the Capitol. Her decision meant that a challenge to Georgia’s electoral votes failed for lack of a Senate sponsor.

Loeffler was defeated in Tuesday’s Senate runoff in Georgia, which means her votes on the Electoral College disputes could be among her last as a senator.

In the House, a majority of the Republican caucus voted to sustain the objections, including 79 out of 99 Southern members, a group that included the top-ranking Southerner, Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

However, among Kentucky’s five Republican members, only one, Hal Rogers, supported the objections. The rest of the delegation joined with McConnell and the Bluegrass State’s other senator, Rand Paul, in voting no: James Comer, Brett Guthrie, Thomas Massie and Andy Barr.

In the Arkansas delegation, only Rick Crawford supported the objections, which were opposed by both senators, Tom Cotton and John Boozman. French Smith, Bruce Westerman and Steve Womack all voted no.

Alone among their state Republican delegations in opposing the objections were Nancy Mace of South Carolina, who was elected in November to represent Charleston and the Low Country, and David McKinley of West Virginia.

Other Southern Republican House members who opposed the objections to Biden’s electoral vote count were Vern Buchanan and Michael Walz of Florida; Austin Scott and Drew Ferguson of Georgia; Patrick McHenry of NC; and Dan Crenshaw, Tony Gonzales, Michael McCaul, Chip Roy and Van Taylor of Texas.

Three members — Kay Granger and Kevin Brady of Texas and Maria Elvira Salazar of Florida — were in COVID-19 quarantine and did not vote.

Here is the list of Southern House members supporting the Electoral College objections, by state:

Alabama: Aderholt, Brooks, Carl, Moore, Palmer, Rogers
Arkansas: Crawford
Florida: Cammack, Diaz-Balart, Donalds, Dunn, Franklin, Gaetz, Giménez, Mast, Posey, Rutherford, Steube, Webster
Georgia: Allen, Carter, Clyde, Greene, Hice, Loudermilk
Louisiana: Higgins, Graves, Johnson, Scalise
Kentucky: Rogers
Mississippi: Guest, Kelly, Palazzo
North Carolina: Bishop, Budd, Cawthorn, Foxx, Hudson, Murphy, Rouzer
Oklahoma: Bice, Cole, Horn, Lucas, Mullin
South Carolina: Duncan, Norman, Rice, Timmons, Wilson
Tennessee: Burchett, DesJarlais, Fleischmann, Green, Harshbarger, Kustoff, Rose
Texas: Arrington, Babin, Burgess, Carter, Cloud, Fallon, Gohmert, Gooden, Jackson, Nehls, Pfluger, Sessions, Weber, Williams, Wright
Virginia: Cline, Good, Griffith, Wittmann
West Virginia: Miller, Mooney

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell makes impassioned plea against Electoral College vote challenge

McConnell says overturning will of voters would put American democracy in a “death spiral”

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky took to the Senate floor Wednesday to make a somber and impassioned plea against overturning President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College win, saying “nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale” needed to overturn the election.

Video of McConnell’s speech at end of story

McConnell speaks against Electoral College challenge on Senate floor

“We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids,” McConnell said. “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.”

“We’d never see the whole nation accept an election again. Every four years it would be a scramble for power at any cost.”

McConnell also decried the current level of contention in American politics, saying “we cannot keep drifting apart into two separate tribes with a separate set of facts and separate reality, with nothing in common except our hostility toward each other and distrust for the few national institutions that we all still share.”

McConnell’s remarks came less than an hour before the Senate had to be evacuated after pro-Trump protestors breached the Capitol.

In words that proved prescient, McConnell said, “I will not pretend such a vote will be a harmless protest gesture while relying on others to do the right thing.”

McConnell said he supported President Donald Trump’s right to use the legal system to challenge the election results, “but over and over, courts rejected these claims, including all-star judges whom the president himself has nominated.”

His remarks came on the day after Democrats appear to have won two U.S. Senate runoff races in Georgia, which will cost him his post as majority leader once both of those votes are confirmed.

McConnell, who was re-elected in November to a seventh term, called Wednesday’s vote “the most important vote I’ve ever cast” during his 36 years as a senator.

His remarks came during a debate triggered when Trump supporters in the House objected to certifying Arizona’s electoral votes and were joined by Texas Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.

The session in both houses was suspended after protestors breached security and entered the U.S. Capitol building.

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25 new Southern U.S. House members, 2 senators sworn in Sunday

Freshmen group includes youngest member in nearly 60 years, wave of Republican women

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Members of the new 117th Congress will be sworn into office on Sunday, including 25 new Southern U.S. House members and two new Southern senators.

The Southern House freshmen include seven Republican women, part of a wave elected in November that more the doubled the number of GOP women in the chamber, and 25-year-old Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, who is the youngest member of the House sworn in since 1965.

Also among the new Southern House members is former White House doctor Ronny Jackson, whom President Donald Trump tried unsuccessfully to elevate to Veterans Affairs secretary in 2018. He will represent now represent the Texas Panhandle.

Republican Stephanie Bice from Oklahoma City is making history as the first Iranian-American to serve in Congress. Her father emigrated from Iran in the 1970s.

Byron Donalds, the new member representing Southwest Florida, will be one of just two African American Republicans in the House and three in Congress overall.

Full list of new Southern House members at bottom of story

Clockwise from top left: Cawthorn, Bice, Donalds, Tuberville, Sessions, Greene

In the Senate, Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, and Bill Hagerty, R-Tennessee, will join a Southern contingent that now includes 25 Republicans and just three Democrats, after Tuberville defeated Doug Jones in November.

Lawmakers were sworn in during a rare Sunday session because the Constitution prescribes January 3 as the date for opening a new Congress.

Sunday’s House session is scheduled to include a moment of silence for Republican U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow of Louisiana, who died from COVID-19 days before he was set to be sworn in.

While both the House and Senate were observing coronavirus precautions, including masks and social distancing, one new member from Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene, was spotted on the floor without a mask, prompting admonishment by House staff.

During orientation for new members, she had dismissed masks — which are required on the House floor — as “oppressive.”

Among the new members sworn in Sunday was one very familiar face — Republican Pete Sessions of Texas, who served 11 terms in the House before being defeated in 2018, then claiming a seat from a different district in November.

Sessions and Jackson are part of a group of seven new members from Texas, marking a turnover in nearly a fifth of the Lone Star State’s delegation amid a wave of retirements. All are Republicans.

Florida has five new members; Georgia, four; North Carolina, three; and Alabama, two. Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia each have one new member. Delegations from Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and West Virginia were unchanged.

Eleven of the 25 new Southern members are women (seven Republicans and four Democrats), part of the largest group of women (121) ever sworn into a single Congress. The new Congress will also feature a record number of Republican women at 29, up from 13 in the last Congress.

The service of one Southern House member in the 117th Congress will be brief — Cedric Richmond, a New Orleans Democrat who will leave to become a senior aide to President-elect Joe Biden once he is sworn in on January 20.

Special elections will be held in Louisiana for Richmond and Letlow’s seats in March; neither are expected to change hands between parties.

The Constitution requires members of the House to be at least 25 years of age, a threshold Cawthorn met in August after winning the Republican primary in his Western North Carolina district. He will be the youngest House member since Jed Johnson Jr., a Democrat who represented Oklahoma for a single term between 1965 and 1967.

Sessions represented a Dallas-area seat during his first stint in the House, which he lost in 2018 to Collin Allred. Rather than try to reclaim it in 2020, he ran in a vacant seat in a district that includes Waco, where he grew up.

Of the 25 new Southern members, 21 were Republicans and just four were Democrats. Overall, Republicans hold 99 Southern seats and Democrats 52, with Letlow’s seat vacant.

Four Southern states — Arkansas, Oklahoma and West Virginia — have no Democrats in their House delegations, while five others — Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina — have just one.

In only one Southern state do Democrats hold a majority of seats, Virginia, which is sending seven Democrats and only four Republicans to Washington.

Here is a list of new Southern House members, by state:

Alabama
Jerry Carl, R, 1st District (Mobile, South Alabama)
Barry Moore, R, 2nd District (Montgomery, southwest Alabama)

Florida
Kat Kammack, R, 3rd District (Gainesville, North-Central Florida)
Scott Franklin, R, 15 District (Lakeland, eastern Tampa suburbs)
Byron Donalds, R, 19th District (Fort Myers, Southwest Florida)
Carlos Giménez, R, 26th District (south Miami-Dade, Florida Keys)
Maria Elvira Salazar, R, 27th District (Miami-Dade)

Georgia
Nikema Williams, D, 5th District (Atlanta)
Carolyn Bourdeaux, D, 7th District (northeast Atlanta suburbs)
Andrew Clyde, R, 9th District (Gainesville, Northeast Georgia)
Marjorie Taylor Greene, R, 14th District (Rome, Northwest Georgia)

North Carolina
Deborah Ross, D, 2nd District (Raleigh)
Kathy Manning, D, 6th District (Greensboro)
Madison Cawthorn, R, 11th District (Western North Carolina)

Oklahoma
Stephanie Bice, R, 5th District (metro Oklahoma City)

South Carolina
Nancy Mace, R, 1st District (Charleston, Low Country)

Tennessee
Diana Harshbarger, R, 1st District (Tri-Cities, East Tennessee)

Texas
Pat Fallon, R, 4th District (Northeast Texas)
August Pfluger, R, 11th District (Midland, San Angelo, west-central Texas)
Ronny Jackson, R, 13th District (Amarillo, Wichita Falls, Panhandle)
Pete Sessions, R, 17th District (Waco, central-east Texas)
Troy Nehls, R, 22nd District (western Houston suburbs)
Tony Gonzales, R, 23rd District (West Texas)
Beth Van Duyne, R, 24th District (metro Dallas-Forth Worth)

Virginia
Bob Good, R, 5th District (Charlottesville, central Virginia)

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Louisiana U.S. Rep-elect Luke Letlow dies from COVID-19 complications

Letlow was elected to represent the 5th District in December runoff

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

SHREVEPORT (CFP) — Less than a month after winning a hard-fought runoff to claim a seat in Congress, Louisiana Republican U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow has died from complications from COVID-19, becoming the first member or prospective member of Congress claimed by the pandemic.

Letlow, 41, died Tuesday at Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport, where he was admitted last week after his condition worsened. He had announced on December 18 that he had tested positive and was admitted to a hospital in Monroe the next day.

U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, R-Louisiana

The Monroe Star News reported that Letlow died from a heart attack while undergoing a procedure to treat his COVID infection but had no underlying heart issues.

Letlow’s death came just five days before he was to be sworn in as a congressman on Sunday. He is survived by his wife, Julia, and two young children. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Before his election to Congress, Letlow had served as chief-of-staff for Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham. After Abraham announced his retirement in March, Letlow ran to be his replacement in the 5th District, which covers 24 parishes in northeast and central Louisiana.

With Abraham’s endorsement, Letlow had come in first place in November’s all-party jungle primary. In the December runoff, he defeated Republican State Rep. Lance Harris, capturing 62% of the vote.

His death will trigger a special election in the 5th District. Governor John Bel Edwards has set the election for March 20, to coincide with other state elections and another special election in metro New Orleans to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is leaving the House to join the Biden administration.

The 5th District is heavily Republican, making it likely that another Republican will replace Letlow. Abraham has said he does not plan to be a candidate.

Edwards released a statement saying he was “heartbroken that [Letlow] will not be able to serve our people as a U.S. representative, but I am even more devastated for his loving family.”

The Louisiana congressional delegation also released a statement saying that Letlow “had such a positive spirit, and a tremendously bright future ahead of him. He was looking forward to serving the people of Louisiana in Congress, and we were excited to welcome him to our delegation where he was ready to make an even greater impact on our state and our Nation.”

In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Letlow “fought passionately for his point of view and dedicated his life to public service.”

“As the House grieves Congressman-elect Letlow’s passing, our sorrow is compounded by the grief of so many other families who have also suffered lives cut short by this terrible virus,” Pelosi said.

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Most Southern Republican U.S. House members break with Trump on 2 key votes

Only 18 join Trump’s push for $2,000 coronavirus relief checks, while 51 vote to sustain veto of defense spending bill

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Southern U.S. House Republicans were largely unswayed by President Donald Trump’s call for larger coronavirus relief checks in a key vote Monday, and most of them then voted to override the president’s veto of a defense spending bill that had passed earlier in the month with broad bipartisan support.

Trump had threatened to veto a coronavirus funding bill because it did not provide Americans with more generous relief checks, before signing it Sunday. But House Democrats brought a stand-alone bill to the floor to increase checks from $600 per person to $2,000, and 44 Republicans joined with almost all of the Democrats to pass it by a margin of 275 to 134 and send it to the Senate.

However, among the 99 Southern Republicans in the House, just 18 joined in the effort to make relief checks more robust — Reps. Robert Aderholt of Alabama; James Comer and Hal Rogers of Kentucky; Rick Crawford of Arkansas; Mario Diaz-Balart, Francis Rooney and John Rutherford of Florida; Michael Burgess, Kay Granger, Bill Flores, Will Hurd, Mike McCaul and Pete Olson of Texas; Clay Higgins of Louisiana; Tom Cole and Frank Lucas of Oklahoma; David McKinley of West Virginia; and Denver Riggleman of Virginia.

Hours later, the House, as expected, overrode Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Bill, with 109 Republicans, including 51 Southern Republicans, voting in favor of the first successful veto override of his presidency.

Just 35 Southern Republicans voted to sustain the president’s veto including 12 Southern Republicans who had voted for the defense bill but switched sides on the override vote — Comer, Diaz-Balart, Burgess, McKinley, Rick Allen of Georgia,  Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, Carol Miller of West Virginia, Gary Palmer of Alabama, John Rose of Tennessee, and Bruce Westerman of Arkansas. Greg Steube of Florida, who did not vote when the bill came to the floor, also voted against the override.

Five other Southern Republicans who supported the bill’s passage opted not to oppose Trump on the veto override and did not vote — Reps. Andy Barr of Kentucky, Gus Bilirakis of Florida, Kenny Marchant of Texas, Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, and Phil Roe of Tennessee. Jody Hice of Georgia, who opposed the bill, also did not vote on the override.

Twenty-two Southern Republicans opposed both the original bill and the veto override, including House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Trump’s most vocal defender in the House, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.

All 50 Southern Democrats serving in the House voted for the $2,000 checks and the veto override.

Trump vetoed the defense spending bill because he objected to a provision requiring name changes for military bases named for Confederate officials, mostly in the South. He also wanted Congress to repeal an unrelated provision that protects digital media companies from liability for posting third-party content.

The veto put Republicans in the awkward position of choosing between loyalty to Trump and supporting a bill to fund military operations, including pay raises for the troops.

After the House override, Trump took to Twitter to denounce the action as “a disgraceful act of cowardice and total submission by weak people to Big Tech.”

The bill had passed December 8 by a veto-proof margin of 335 to 78, with the support from 140 Republicans. The veto override is expected to clear the Senate.

However, the boost in relief checks is expected to have a much more difficult time in the Senate, where members have expressed concerns about the $300 billion cost of nearly the tripling the amount of the payments.

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