Washington, DC — Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-3rd District) was on the U.S. House of Representatives today as the Capitol building was raided by protestors, and issued this statement:
“I was on the House floor as the protestors overran police and pounded on the doors. The Capitol Police barricaded us in. We were told to get down and to get our gas masks. Eventually, we were ushered out. Capitol police who were escorting me told me they had found and detonated four bombs just off the Capitol campus. I am currently safe and sheltered in place. We are locked down because the Capitol is not secure.
”The reports you are hearing about the chaos, panic and dangerous actions by protestors are not exaggerations. I witnessed them. Is this the America we want to give to our children? A country of lawlessness and mob rule? Previous generations of Americans have laid down their lives to answer “no” to that question. Do we want to be the first generation selfish enough to say “yes”? If we do, then what makes us a better nation than Iran or Russia?
”Though this feels very much like a secondary issue today, I wrote the below statement yesterday to post on social media explaining the Constitutional reasons why I won’t vote to overturn the Electoral College results. But frankly, the important thing is this; we cannot be a nation of lawlessness and anarchy. That’s the road we’re headed down with this disrespect for our popular elections and our Constitution, and the neverending conspiracy theories and misinformation. Please, be peaceful and stand down. Nothing is more important to me as a Representative than the preservation of our Constitutional republic.”
Article II of the Constitution states “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, […]” meaning that it is the duty of State Legislatures to select electors in the manner they stipulate. The founders of our Republic did not want to federalize elections, which is why they reserve the selection of electors to the states.
Historically, when Congress intervened in the Electoral College process, as in the Civil War, there were multiple slates of electors sent and it was truly an issue of deciding who had the authority within a state to send electors. That’s not the case today. Of the six states being actively contested in this election, five have Republican legislatures. Yet not one legislative body has voted to withhold, object to, or change certification of their electors. Every single one of the states in question has certified and sent one slate of electors officially to Congress. Not a secondary slate. Not a contested slate. Not multiple slates. One slate. Not one of these legislatures has met as a body and voted to send Congress a bill, a resolution of disapproval, or a plea for help due to injustice. Nothing.
If there are no conflicting slates of electors, the Constitution’s 12th Amendment confines the role of Congress to counting the votes cast. It does not give Congress the power to disqualify electoral votes cast by the states. The Founders were wise to divide power this way. If Congress could disqualify electoral votes, then each president would be selected not by the states or the people, but by Congress.
Recall that four years ago, there were Democrat Representatives in Congress who would not acknowledge President Trump’s victory based on their beliefs that Russians had delivered him the election. Other prominent Democrats, from Jimmy Carter to Hillary Clinton, called President Trump’s election “illegitimate” because of “voter suppression,” “hacking,” and “false stories.” Some Representatives tried – unsuccessfully – to object to President Trump’s election in the very manner being suggested now. We must be careful not to create a precedent that would allow every future presidential election to be nullified by the political party that controls Congress. In politics, what goes around comes around.
Several members of Congress state that objecting today is the only way to ensure that “the people’s voices are heard,” but they overlook the responsibility of the people in those states in question to hold their own elected officials accountable. I find it difficult to assert that I, a member of Congress from Washington state, know better than the people of Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona, and Nevada whom they should elect to be responsible for their Electoral College selection process. We may not like who they elected, or how their process works, or what electors their states sent us, but the Constitution does not give us the authority to substitute our ideas for theirs.
I will not vote to undermine the entire Electoral College because my choice for president did not win. I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States above all else. I will not violate this oath. Instead, my vote will be to uphold the Constitution and ensure the power remains placed with the people – not just a few in Congress – as the founders of our nation intended.