Five of the six members of Louisiana’s Republican congressional delegation sided with President Donald Trump in votes late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning that sought to overturn the election of Joe Biden as president.
All six of them condemned the insurrection that led the pro-Trump mob to breach security Wednesday, seize control of parts of the U.S. Capitol and force the rushed evacuation of lawmakers, including Vice President Mike Pence. None of the six has condemned Trump, who called on his supporters to head to the Capitol earlier Wednesday and has been blamed by many Republicans and Democrats for inciting the attack.
Trump is even facing calls that he be forced out of office, either through another impeachment process or through the 25th Amendment, although neither effort seems likely to win much support among Louisiana's Republican lawmakers.
Of them, only U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy supported the election results during the two votes taken late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning after police cleared out the mob. He said Thursday evening that he has received both encouragement and criticism from constituents for his stance.
U.S. Reps. Steve Scalise, of Jefferson, Mike Johnson, of Benton and Clay Higgins, of Lafayette, backed Trump in voting not to certify the electors from either Arizona or Pennsylvania.
U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy voted to accept the electors from Pennsylvania but not from Arizona. U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, of Baton Rouge, voted just the opposite, supporting the electors from Arizona but not Pennsylvania.
Louisiana doesn't yet have a congressman representing the sprawling 5th Congressional District, which includes Monroe, Alexandria and Bogalusa. U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham retired and his successor, Luke Letlow, died on Dec. 29 before being sworn in. A primary election has been set for March 20 to replace Letlow.
Congress had convened Wednesday for what usually is a ceremonial event to accept the Electoral College votes certified by each state and which showed Biden had won the Nov. 3 election. The count was abruptly stopped when a group of people waving Trump flags and egged on by the president rampaged through the U.S. Capitol. The vote, the last one in the protracted presidential election, was delayed by about eight hours as law enforcement cleared the Capitol.
“There’s a lot of images that we have and that law enforcement is gathering, every single one of them needs to be held accountable,” Scalise said in an interview, in comments echoed by his colleagues. “If you let anarchists change the way you’re voting on an issue, that’s a dangerous precedent as well.”
Images have included the Trump supporters pushing aside barricades and Capitol Police to rush the Capitol building. Once inside, one man was seen carrying an oversized Confederate flag while another man was photographed in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, with a foot on her desk. A third person sat in the chair Pence had vacated in the Senate and said that Trump had the election stolen from him. Several people died amid the tumult inside the Capitol.
Trump has come under such strong criticism that Democrats and some Republicans are calling for Pence and a majority of the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and force the president from office during his final days in power. Trump could block that move, and then it would take a two-thirds vote of Congress to remove him.
“Clearly, there was a heck of a lot of disinformation put out there about the election, including that the election could be overturned at the electoral college. It’s just not constitutional, and the allegations of fraud were not true. They had been pretty well debunked, except they continued to circulate on social media. Whoever promoted that, knowing it was false, to that degree, they helped create the climate,” Cassidy told The Advocate and Times-Picayune.
“Practically speaking, obviously Democrats want to impeach the president, but there isn’t enough time to impeach,” he added.
Reaching two-thirds to invoke the 25th Amendment would require substantial Republican support since Democrats have only a bare majority in both the House and the Senate.
Graves, in an interview with The Advocate and Times-Picayune, was not enthusiastic about going that route.
"The reality is we’re less than two weeks away from the end of this presidency," he said. "Could you go out there and do those drastic things? You could. But those things might be more damaging. ...What makes more sense at this point is that he effectively begins his withdrawal and does not use that microphone at all, certainly not to the extent he’s used it in the past.”
Scalise had little interest in invoking the 25th Amendment or trying to impeach Trump, another idea that has surfaced.
“Right now, we need to focus on a peaceful transfer of power, and that’s going to happen on Jan. 20, and we need to focus on reuniting the country," Scalise said. "There’s some very sharp divisions that still exist. That’s where our focus needs to be. Yet another impeachment is not going to help bring people together right now. …We’re literally less than two weeks away from the peaceful transfer of power. We need to ensure that happens, and it will.”
The votes in the Capitol centered on an obscure constitutional provision that allowed Congress to decide whether to certify the electoral result in a particular state, as long as at least one senator and one representative wanted to do that.
The first objection came on Arizona. The two chambers separated and were beginning what appeared to be hours of debate when Capitol police interrupted and evacuated members because a violent mob had stormed the building.
Hours later the House and Senate reconvened to vote on whether to accept the objection.
At 9:58 p.m. the Senate voted 6 to 93 to reject the notion with Cassidy voting with the majority to accept Arizona’s Electoral College ballots and Kennedy voting to object.
Final U.S. Senate Vote on objecting to Arizona Electoral College Votes, Jan. 6, 2021
The House followed suit by accepting Arizona’s electors at 11:08 p.m., according to the Congressional Record.
Three of Louisiana’s congressmen were among the 121 Republican members who wanted to block the Arizona votes. They were Scalise, the No. 2 Republican, Higgins and Johnson. Graves and Cedric Richmond, the only Democrat in Louisiana delegation, were among the 303 representatives who voted against the Arizona objection.
Final House Vote on objecting to Arizona Electoral College Votes, Jan. 6, 2021
Later, another objection was raised on accepting Pennsylvania’s election result.
The Senate failed to sustain that objection on a 7 to 92 vote. Cassidy and Kennedy voted with the majority to accept the electors.
At 3:08 a.m., when the U.S. House took up the Pennsylvania objection, all four Republican members of Louisiana’s delegation – Graves, Higgins, Johnson and Scalise – agreed with the objection and Richmond voted against. The objection failed on a vote of 138 for and 282 against with 11 representatives not voting.
That was the last objection.
Final Senate Vote on objecting to Pennsylvania Electoral College Votes, Jan. 7, 2021
Final U.S. House Vote on objecting to Pennsylvania Electoral College Votes, Jan. 7, 2021
About a half hour later, with all the state’s votes counted, Pence, who was presiding, ended the marathon evening.
Using the prescribed language, Pence said: “The announcement of the state of the vote by the president of the Senate shall be deemed a sufficient declaration of the persons elected president and vice president of the United States, each for the term beginning on the 20th day of January 2021, and shall be entered together with a list of the votes on the journals of the Senate and the House of Representatives.”
In a Facebook post Thursday, Kennedy said his vote on Arizona's electors was to give voice to those concerned about election "irregularities," although no court or election official has found evidence of irregularities.
"I joined several Senate colleagues in calling for a bipartisan commission to inspect election issues raised across the country," Kennedy said. "Our proposal was not successful, but our goal to ensure full confidence and transparency in our elections — for all Americans — is a noble one, and I’ll keep pursuing it."
Higgins told House members that he was acting out of principle in rejecting the electors from Arizona and Pennsylvania.
"State executive officials usurped the constitutionally vested authority of state legislatures within several of the sovereign states," he said, not noting that those state officials in Arizona were Republicans.
In a Facebook post, Graves explained why he voted for the Arizona electors and against the Pennsylvania ones.
"The Republican governor certified the state’s election results and there was no substantive objection by their legislature," Graves said. "Both the Arizona House and Senate have Republican majorities.
"In the case of Pennsylvania, a number of voting anomalies took place based upon decisions by local election officials," Graves added, without noting that Republican judges rejected his view. "The governor, attorney general and secretary of state appeared to be involved in some changes – all Democrats. In addition, judges made changes that did not comply with the election process established by the Pennsylvania legislature. It appears that the cumulative actions in Pennsylvania did not result in fair elections in that state. This tipped the scales of the election in favor of Vice President Biden."
Graves, in the interview, said he made his votes knowing that the outcome would not have been enough to prevent Biden from winning.
“Democracy triumphed," Cassidy said. "The House and Senate came back in. And we’re completing the business of the orderly transfer. As a constitutional conservative, that means a heck of a lot to me. The fact that there was an orderly transfer is very important to me.”