About a month ago, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) filed a ridiculous lawsuit intended to overturn the results of the presidential election and give Donald Trump power he didn't earn. Congressional Republicans soon after backed the undemocratic scheme.
And not just a few GOP lawmakers from the right-wing fringe: two-thirds of the House Republican conference signed their names to a court filing, endorsing the anti-election litigation. The list included, among others, the top members of the House Republican leadership -- California's Kevin McCarthy and Louisiana's Steve Scalise -- who, as The Atlantic's David Graham put it, went from "coddling a sore loser to effectively abandoning democracy."
It was stunning to see just how much of the GOP conference had succumbed to such madness -- and yesterday, that realization became even more painful.
After the Trump-inspired attack on the U.S. Capitol, lawmakers ultimately returned to their respective chambers and completed the process of certifying President-elect Joe Biden's victory. But as part of the proceedings, a group of Republicans followed through on their earlier plans. As a Washington Post analysis noted:
[Congress' confirmation of Biden's victory] came only after two unprecedented efforts to prevent its happening: the storming of the U.S. Capitol itself by a pro-Trump mob and an effort supported by most of the Republicans who serve on Capitol Hill to block the count. There were two substantive objections to the receipt of the electoral votes, focused on the states of Arizona and Pennsylvania. Of the 262 Republicans in the House and Senate who were present, 146 supported one or both of those objections. Most of that number, predictably, were in the House — but more than a half-dozen senators joined them.
In the House, there were two roll call votes -- see here and here -- and at least 139 of the Republican conference's 211 members (roughly 66%) voted to balk at certifying the election results at least once. As was the case a month ago, both of the top two GOP leaders voted with their right-wing colleagues -- including McCarthy, the would-be House Speaker if Republicans reclaim the majority next year.
The Senate had two roll call votes of its own -- see here and here -- and while the percentage was much smaller, eight GOP senators objected at least once. The list includes Texas' Ted Cruz, Missouri's Josh Hawley, Mississippi's Cindy Hyde-Smith, Wyoming's Cynthia Lummis, Louisiana's John Kennedy, Kansas' Roger Marshall, Florida's Rick Scott, and Alabama's Tommy Tuberville.
Notice, three of these senators -- Lummis, Marshall, and Tuberville -- were just sworn into office a few days ago. These were the first votes they ever cast as members of the institution once known as the World's Greatest Deliberative Body.
Unlike the House, Senate Republican leaders urged their members not to do this -- especially after the insurrectionist violence -- but these senators did it anyway.
Following up on our earlier coverage, it's likely that some will offer a tacit defense of these 146 GOP lawmakers, arguing that some of them don't genuinely oppose democracy; they merely voted this way for political reasons. Maybe they fear Trump and his followers. Maybe they want a fundraising boost. Maybe they're worried about a primary challenge in 2022.
But ultimately, what these Republicans believe is less important than what these Republicans have done. In the midst of an attack against our system of government, and in the immediate aftermath of a mob launching a literal attack against our Capitol, 146 elected federal lawmakers made a conscious and deliberate choice to stand on the wrong side.
In the not-too-distant past, news consumers routinely saw headlines saying, "Congressional Republicans support [crazy thing]." We'd click the link, read the article, and see that the GOP lawmakers in question were really just Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert, at which point we'd shake our heads, shrug our shoulders, and move on.
Those days are over. There is a toxicity in the body politic, and it's poisoned a majority of congressional Republicans.