Amid recriminations, Lankford, Bice say they weren't trying to overturn Biden's election
Amid recriminations about Republican election challenges fueling the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, two Oklahoma lawmakers defended their Electoral College objections and said they were not trying to overturn Joe Biden’s victory.
“I wasn’t trying to overturn this election,” said Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford.
Lankford was among 11 senators who announced on Saturday that he would oppose the electors unless Congress created a commission to investigate allegations of election fraud in some states that President Donald Trump lost.
Just after Congress began counting the Electoral College votes, Lankford lodged an objection to Arizona’s votes. He was speaking on the Senate floor when rioters stormed the Capitol, forcing an evacuation and a six-hour delay in the debate.
When deliberations resumed, Lankford backed off his challenge and voted against upholding the objection he had helped lodge. He said in an interview that he couldn’t “in good conscience take a vote tonight that (was) in any way an affirmation of what happened” at the Capitol.
Lankford said, “There was a thought that there would be several states that would have challenges … But I was never going to challenge more than one because if you start challenging multiple states, you’re making obvious: I’m trying to overturn this election. I wasn’t trying to overturn this election.”
Some lawmakers in both parties, however, view it differently, with many accusing Republicans engaging in the challenges as enablers to Trump’s weeks-long effort to discredit the presidential election.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, of Utah, said Wednesday night, “Those who choose to continue to support (Trump’s) dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy. They will be remembered for their role in this shameful episode in American history. That will be their legacy.”
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., blasted the "folly of the Republicans thinking that we should go until 4:00 in the morning with no purpose whatsoever except to be enablers of the president’s sedition by undermining the elections."
Lankford and Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe voted not to uphold objections lodged against electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Inhofe was the sole member of the seven-person, all-Republican Oklahoma delegation who came out against challenging Electoral College votes. Inhofe did that on Tuesday.
In an interview on Wednesday, Inhofe said his position had made him unpopular in Oklahoma and alienated him from long-time friends.
But he said he didn’t see a constitutional path to challenging results certified by states.
“The Constitution is very clear … about what’s so supposed to happen,” Inhofe said. “It’s all done by the states.”
Congress’ only role, Inhofe said, was to certify the electors and declare the vote.
“That’s it,” he said. “That’s the reason I said initially I was going to oppose the whole movement they were trying to do because I was doing what the Constitution tells me to do.”
All five Oklahoma members of the U.S. House voted for the objections. The objections were overwhelmingly defeated in both houses.
Freshman Rep. Stephanie Bice, a Republican from Oklahoma City who was sworn into office for the first time on Sunday, said in a statement on Thursday, “Many have questioned my decision to support challenging states’ electoral college votes. Let me be clear: My vote represented my desire to ensure the security of elections across the country, not to overturn an election. Any other reason for my support of challenging the certification of the votes is categorically false.”
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, the only member of the delegation who waited until after the first vote to announce his position, said “Americans deserve to have confidence in our electoral system; therefore, I am committed to restoring the faith of the American people in our elections.”
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said, “The voters I represent are not concerned about the fairness of elections in Oklahoma. However, they are concerned about fairness and transparency in other states. They have asked me to express their concerns with my vote on the floor today, and as their representative, I intend to do so.”
Alicia Andrews, chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, called on all members of the delegation except Inhofe to resign, saying they had “promulgated a lie being spread by a deeply flawed man who we have as President for another few days. They are not leaders. They are following the lead of the wrong person and, as a result, have blood on their hands today.”
Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Tulsa, said the objections were important “because the sanctity of our elections is critical to the function of our government. This is not about any one man, or any one party. Nor is this unprecedented – Democrats in Congress have objected to the certification of electoral college votes over concerns with election integrity in multiple elections over the past few decades. This debate was about protecting our sacred right to vote and ensuring the security of our elections.”