In the midst of chaos in the last days of his administration, Donald Trump retaliated against Senators Thune (R-SD) and McConnell (R-KY) for acknowledging former Vice President Joe Biden as president-elect. Thune is the Majority Whip in the Senate and No. 2 to Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader.
On December 15 McConnell spoke on the Senate floor saying, “The Electoral College has spoken. So today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.”
Trump attacked two massive bills from Congress as a result, the $741 billion National Defense Authorization Act and the $900 billion Consolidated Appropriations Act, placing January runoff elections in Georgia in peril. What follows is a short history of events over the last three weeks as they relate to South Dakota.
Electoral College vote confirms Biden
The Electoral College met on December 14 to confirm the vote to elect Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. Biden won the Electoral College 306 to 232. The magic number was 270 to win the election.
Many Republican loyalists had been waiting for the Electoral College vote before acknowledging Biden as president-elect. A few early exceptions were Susan Collins (R-ME), Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Collins and Murkowski are the two senior-most women in the Senate.
Senior Republicans acknowledge Biden as president-elect
Senator Thune, of Sioux Falls, finally accepted the outcome of the election saying, “As soon as he crosses the 270-vote threshold, I mean there are still a couple of, I guess, last steps in the process, but in my view that’s how in this country we decide presidential elections, that’s our Constitution, and I believe in following the Constitution.”
Thune went on, “I understand there are people who feel strongly about the outcome of this election, but in the end, at some point, you have to face the music…and I think once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it’s time for everybody to move on.”
Reuters reported that Thune said any effort to try to overturn the result when Congress counts the Electoral College votes on January 6 would get little support. “It’s not going anywhere,” he told reporters.
Thune was attacked in a December 22 tweet by Trump, who said, “Republicans in the Senate so quickly forget. Right now they would be down 8 seats without my backing them in the last Election. RINO John Thune, ‘Mitch’s boy’, should just let it play out. South Dakota doesn’t like weakness. He will be primaried in 2020, political career over!!!”
Other Republican senators who publicly recognized Biden as president-elect after the Electoral College meeting were Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Rob Portman (R-OH), Roy Blunt (R-MO) who is the fourth ranking Republican Senator behind McConnell and Thune, and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).
Trump attacks COVID Relief and Defense Spending
In retaliation against those who finally admitted that Biden won the election, Trump vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act on December 23. The bill funds the United States military. With his veto, Trump left the military unfunded. Trump departed Washington the same day for Christmas in Florida with no clear plans to return.
The day before Trump attacked the $900 billion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. Both houses of Congress and both parties passed the bill on December 21 after months of negotiation. It contained provisions for coronavirus relief the Trump team favored, including a $600 one-time stimulus payment to individuals.
Trump changed his tune without consulting with fellow Republican leaders and demanded $2000 payments instead, later tweeting on December 26, “$2000 + $2000 plus other family members. Not $600. Remember, it was China’s fault!”
Trump Skewers McConnell and Thune
Editor’s Note: Richardson’s blog, “Letters from an American,” has provided clear and concise analysis on a daily basis throughout the Trump presidency. See her commentary on the events at Wounded Knee in 1890 on page A4 in this issue.
“The bill contains a coronavirus relief measure which provides $600 to individuals in a one-time payment. Trump insisted the amount should be $2000. Republicans had rejected a higher payment than $600 during negotiations, and a Republican official noted today that Trump had been informed of the discussions of the bill as they progressed and had made no objection to the terms at the time. His complaints now, the official said, were driven by his desire to skewer McConnell and Thune.”
Richardson’s blog, “Letters from an American,” has provided clear and concise analysis on a daily basis throughout the Trump presidency.
Richardson opened her piece saying, “The main story today was that Trump has essentially quit even pretending to govern, and instead created chaos in Washington before leaving for Mar-a-Lago until sometime in the new year. The confusion he has sown promises to keep him central over the holidays, and remaining central is what drives this man. Today the White House first told staffers that they would ‘start departing’ the week of January 4, then told the same staffers to ‘please disregard’ the earlier memo.”
That same day Politico reported that a top Capitol Hill Republican aide said the situation in the White House a complete “clusterf—.”
December Timeline of Events
December 9, South Dakota Attorney General joins TX lawsuit to challenge election at the Supreme Court.
December 10, Noem signs onto AZ lawsuit to block election results.
December 11, Supreme Court throws out Texas lawsuit. AZ lawsuit dismissed.
December 11, Congress passes $741 billion National Defense Authorization Act, sent to President to sign into law.
December 12, Noem decides not to attend Electoral College, sends replacement.
December 14, Electoral College votes. McConnell, Thune, senior Republicans acknowledge Biden is president-elect.
December 21, Congress passes $900 billion bill including pandemic relief package, has overwhelming veto-proof margin. Heads to President’s desk to be signed into law. Package gives $600 stimulus checks.
December 22, Trump attacks relief bill, threatens end of funding for vaccines, unemployment payments and eviction protections. Without passage federal government to be unfunded for next nine months.
December 22, Trump attacks Thune on Twitter for saying Congress would not overturn the Electoral College.
December 23, Trump vetoes National Defense Authorization Act and defunds the US military. The annual bipartisan bill has passed every year for the last 60 years.
December 23, President and First Lady leave DC for Christmas in Florida. Unclear if Trump plans to return before the inauguration. White House a “clusterf—.”
December 27, under pressure Trump signs relief package.
December 28, House of Representatives overrides Trump’s veto, passes National Defense Authorization Act. Set to pass in Senate.
December 28, House passes $2000 stimulus checks. Future uncertain in the Senate.
Results of Texas lawsuit ricochet, a repudiation of the Constitution
The AP reported on December 15 that even after the Electoral College vote many Republicans were still backing legal battles to block or overturn results of the November election. “Some 120 House Republicans signed on to the failed Texas lawsuit last week asking the Supreme Court to take up the case seeking to throw out election results in the swing-states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia.”
On December 9 the South Dakota Attorney General joined eight other attorneys general in support of a Supreme Court lawsuit to block four battleground states from filing their Electoral College votes; Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The case was dismissed by the court two days later. Trump said the court, including his appointees Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett, “chickened-out.”
Governor Kristi Noem filed an amicus brief on December 10 in favor of a similar lawsuit in Arizona, saying, “The 2020 election has shaken the American people’s faith in the integrity of the electoral process…Fortunately, the Brnovich case presents the Supreme Court with a fantastic opportunity to restore public trust in American elections.” The case was subsequently thrown out in federal court.
Two days later Noem announced she would not exercise her position as an Elector in the Electoral College vote on December 14, presumably because she did not want to be a party to the vote for Biden. She appointed South Dakota Republican Party chairman Dan Lederman to vote in her stead. South Dakota’s three Electoral College votes went to Donald Trump.
The highest courts in the land have dismissed every lawsuit which sought to block the results of the election. In remarks on the Senate floor on December 11, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) described the efforts as “the most serious attempt to overthrow our democracy in the history of our of country.” “Those who are pushing to make Donald Trump President, no matter the outcome of the election, are engaged in a treachery against their nation,” Murphy said.
As a result, some in Congress have called for the 126 members of the House of Representatives who supported them not to be seated when Congress reconvenes in January. While the State of South Dakota weighed in in favor of the Texas lawsuit, none of its representatives signed on. South Dakota’s entire Congressional delegation has remained mostly quiet on the subject of the lawsuits.
The move to censure supports of the Texas lawsuit harkens to the end of the Civil War when the 14th Amendment was instated. It states, in part, that “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress…who, having previously taken an oath…to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof…”
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) said, “…the actions of any of our colleagues to demolish democracy, regardless of party affiliation, must be repudiated in the strongest possible terms. Rising from the embers of the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment was written to prevent the destruction of the United States from without and within. The moment we face now may be without parallel since 1860. The fate of our democracy depends on us meeting that moment.”
The final challenge in Georgia
Overhanging all the machinations of the last few weeks is the upcoming January 5 runoff election in Georgia. Control of the Senate for the next two years hangs in the balance.
The chaos in Washington has pitted Republicans against Trump in trying to position the party to win in Georgia. Incumbent Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler face Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock. Early voting is already underway.
Trump says he plans to visit Georgia on January 4 to whip up support. It’s unclear if his recent actions will help or hurt the Republican effort there.