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Joint Session to Read Electoral College Votes & Objection Process - January 2021

Current Status:

On December 14, electors from all 50 states cast their votes for the electoral college, giving Joe Biden 306 votes and President Trump 232 votes. Leading up to this, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued four battleground states (GA, MI, PA, WI) to challenge their election results. On December 11, the Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit, stating “Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections.”

Following the state’s electors’ votes on December 14, the electors sent their vote certificates to the Vice President (as the President of the Senate), their respective state’s Secretary of State, the Archivist of the United States, and the judge of the federal district court whose district in which the electors met.

On January 6th, the certificates are opened and counted by the VP/President of the Senate during a joint session of Congress. The President of the Senate reads the state’s certificates in alphabetical order, announces the electoral votes for that state, and asks if there are any objections. This procedure has largely been ceremonial in the past, but many have taken to the Internet that this serves as the last “opportunity” to change the election results in favor of President Trump.

Objection Scenarios:

Scenario 1 – If no objection is offered by any Member of Congress then the state’s electoral votes are counted, and the next state’s electoral votes are opened and read.

Scenario 2 – If an objection is offered it must be in writing and signed by one Senator and one Representative to jointly submit the objection. If the objection is not in writing or does not have both a Senator and Representative, then the objection is not considered. The state’s electoral votes are counted, and the next state’s electoral votes are opened and read.

Scenario 3 – If an objection is offered in writing with signatures from one Senator and one Representative, the Senate would then return to their chamber, and both houses would consider the objection for no more than 2 hours. Both houses would then vote on the objection, which is passed/failed by a simple majority vote. The Senate will return to the House for the joint session to reconvene. If both chambers sustain the objection, then that state’s electoral votes would not be counted. If the objection was not agreed to in both chambers then the electoral votes would be counted, and the next state’s electoral votes are opened and read.

An objection is made toward only one state’s electoral votes. As such, should one Senator and one Representative jointly submit the objection, they can object to every state’s electoral votes if they so choose.

If the objections fail to pass by a majority vote, then the original electoral votes are counted, and the joint session ends when all the electoral votes have been counted and the candidate with the majority of votes is announced the President. 

If the objection(s) do pass, then those state’s electoral votes are not counted. Should a candidate not hold the necessary 270 electoral college votes or there is a tie, the House of Representatives decides the presidency with each congressional delegation or state having one vote and the Senate decides the vice president with each Senator having their own vote. The winner is determined by a simple majority vote, so at least 26 states in the House voting for one candidate, and 51 Senators voting for one candidate. Should this contingent election in the House and Senate not be held by January 20, then the Speaker of the House serves as Acting President, or if the Senate has voted but the House has not then the Vice President-elect serves as Acting President until a vote is held.

Outlook for January 6:

Even if Members of both the House and Senate jointly object to the electoral votes of 6 states (AZ, GA, MI, NV, PA, WI), the House will decide by simple majority if the objections are sustained. With 222 Democrats to 211 Republicans, it is all but certain the House will overrule any objections. Additionally, while 12 Republican senators have announced they oppose the counting of electoral votes, 15 senators have already stated they are in support of counting all electoral votes. As such, it is very unlikely that the Senate will vote to sustain any objections.

Vice President Pence’s Authority:

As President of the Senate, Vice President Pence will preside over the certification process. Rep. Louie Gohmert and 11 Arizona Republicans sued VP Pence, claiming that he has sole authority to decide whether a state’s electoral votes are accepted. Vice President Pence subsequently requested the court to reject the suit, stating “Ironically, Representative Gohmert's position, if adopted by the Court, would actually deprive him of his opportunity as a Member of the House under the Electoral Count Act to raise objections to the counting of electoral votes, and then to debate and vote on them." On January 1, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case.

Information: Renown’s Alternative Care Site - 12/4/2020

As a follow up to a recent tweet shared by President Trump regarding Renown’s alternative care site, I would like to share some facts:

  • The alternative care site located in the parking garage of Reno’s Renown Regional Medical Center is in fact operational and serving 34 patients as of December 3, 2020.
  • In fact, the alternative care site was actually first built out, at significant cost to Renown, last April over a ten-day period by local partners including Clark/Sullivan Construction, Curtis Bros. Construction, PK Electrical, Ainsworth Associates Mechanical Engineers, Intermountain Electric, Mt. Rose Heating & Air Conditioning, and Frank Lepori Construction.
  • In anticipation of meeting the community’s needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Renown prepared by purchasing and securing its own testing equipment back in March.
  • Renown is continuing to provide for the medical needs of Northern Nevada residents by providing medically-necessary surgeries for patients.
  • Our community is grateful for their swift and necessary action in securing this overflow space and additionally grateful to Renown’s 7,000 physicians and caregivers, community members, and leaders who are all doing their part to combat this virus.

The source regarding Renown’s alternative care site, was a tweet from the handle “Network in Vegas”. The facts in this instance indicate that their information is wrong on both counts. Renown’s parking garage is functioning well and the alternative care site, which is located in a portion of the parking garage, is anything but “fake”. Quite frankly, it appears to me that management decisions made by Renown to create and maintain this space were excellent in view of our present COVID spike realities. It is also illuminating to recognize that the alternative care site has been fully active with many patients being provided care therein. Just during the week that the tweet came out, there have been nearly 40 patients utilizing beds in the facility. The decision by the White House to rely upon information from the source “Network in Vegas” regarding this facility – was a mistake, and the facts and performance of Renown and all of Nevada’s health care providers during the pandemic speak for themselves. Thank you health care professionals in Nevada.

Information: 2020 Election Cycle Update - 12/15/2020

In 1975, the Federal Election Commission was established to monitor regulations and laws related to elections, campaign finance, and candidates filing for office. Article I of the U.S. Constitution grants each State the responsibility for administering the voting process for federal elections. Accordingly, under this specific Constitutional tasking, the Nevada Secretary of State’s (SOS) office oversees each County Clerk and Voter Registrar’s office.

As you may know, during its second special session in 2020, the Nevada State Legislature passed AB4, mandating mail-in ballots. The bill passed on partisan lines and Governor Sisolak signed it. This legislation required Nevada election officials to send mail-in ballots to all active registered voters. It also permits mail-in ballots under any state of emergency or declaration of disaster for any future election.

I was, and remain, opposed to sweeping ballot changes 90 days prior to an election. There is no mistaking the intent, and it all had to do with the 2020 Presidential race. The potential issues regarding the integrity of election security associated with AB4 are significant.

This is the third presidential election during which I’ve been a Member of Congress. Many people on both sides of the aisle have been critical because I have not become an active social media participant regarding the Presidential election issues. While I think the election integrity issues before and after November 3rd are frankly a serious controversy, I have never been a social or other media participant regarding election results in 2012, 2016, or during this cycle. My style, or lack thereof, depending on your opinion, has always been to focus on the work associated with being a Member of the House of Representatives. That’s what I am doing now and will continue to do. Interestingly, I have looked at what other public elected officials have done and quite frankly, there isn’t much on the record from many of them either.

While I can only speak for myself, I think it’s important to allow the facts to be evaluated and investigations to proceed prior to engaging in the rhetoric culture. I hope and expect the facts to bear out the concerns surrounding election 2020, but I am willing to allow them to be developed and argued before the appropriate decision makers in the various courts of law.

While I understand the high emotions resulting from the outcome of the November 3rd election, I respect the right of our sitting President to explore and pursue all legal options available to him. If President Trump’s legal case is not successful, then Joe Biden will be sworn in on January 20, 2021. I will not on this issue, or any other issue, speculate about matters which are not decided by Congress, but rather, a court of law. The process of getting to a conclusion should be shown some respect.

At the end of the day, my job is to bring the maximum amount of effectiveness to my activities as a Nevada Congressman. That has been, and will remain, my focus and priority. Those activities include election oversight and reform. I know you understand that these are tough times and we are clearly a divided country. I will continue to seek out the relevant facts regarding all issues, including elections and am committed to common sense election reform so as to restore more integrity into our election process. 

I fully support the constitutional requirement that administering the voting process for federal elections stay a responsibility of State and Local authorities. However, I am always going to support a transparent process and an open investigation, should there be legitimate questions about the process. The Nevada Legislature is the primary decider of the function of our elections. If you had a problem with how this year’s election was conducted, keep that in mind when you vote.

Finally, election integrity in Nevada’s Second Congressional District is not at the center of concern in Nevada or the nation. You may be aware of the fact that President Trump carried CD-2 by about 40,000 votes. Thank you to the election officials in the 11 Nevada counties in CD-2.

Should you or someone you know have questions on the status of your ballot, please visit the Nevada Secretary of State’s website to use its online tools or to contact its office directly, you may find that information here. You may also call our Reno office at 775-686-5760, which will provide contact information for your local Registrar's Office.

COVID Relief Funding Bill & FY 2021 Omnibus Appropriations Bill - 12/28/20

As the 116th Congress comes to an end, I wanted to provide an update on the two separate funding packages considered by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 21, 2020. The first was a $900 billion COVID relief package to provide much needed and long overdue relief to millions of Americans, and the second was a bipartisan-bicameral omnibus appropriations bill to fund the entire U.S. government through Fiscal Year 2021.

Following the passage of these bills, I’ve recently heard from several constituents expressing concern over my support of these critical packages, so I wanted to take a moment to address some of those anxieties by providing clarification on what these bills actually seek to do.  

Despite false reports you might have seen about the COVID relief bill not providing enough direct support to American citizens, it actually contains billions of dollars in funding to extend the Paycheck Protection Program, provide relief checks to Americans hit the hardest by the pandemic, extend the unemployment programs created under the CARES Act, and support some of the most necessary components needed to reopen our economy, including funding for vaccines, testing, and support for hospitals. It’s important to note that this package does not include the Democrats’ liberal wish list of demands for blue state bailouts, checks for illegal immigrants, and federal prisoner release.  

The legislation also provides $8 billion to support the reopening of schools, $10 billion for childcare centers to safely continue to operate, and $7 billion to support broadband in our rural communities, among a number of other essential COVID relief provisions. Meaning, despite the flow of misinformation, there was in fact no inclusion of relief funding for foreign nations, as Congress recognizes the top priority is delivering relief to the Americans hit the hardest in our communities here at home. For these reasons, I was pleased to support this package that is going to provide direct, immediate, and additional relief to American families, frontline workers, and the small businesses that keep our economy running.

In regards to the omnibus appropriations bill, the final legislation agreed to is representative of a bicameral and bipartisan package that will keep the critical agencies Americans rely on fully operational through September 30, 2021. Additionally, this legislation has a number of important Republican priorities included, with a majority of the funding in this bill supporting efforts to continue building the barrier at our Southern border, national security efforts, the strengthening of our military, and key pro-life protections, with no funding for Democrats' poison pill riders. The legislation also includes the bipartisan, bicameral language that will protect patients from surprise medical bills.

When it comes to the appropriations process, it’s important to note that the U.S. Constitution grants Congress sole power of the purse, a duty Congress has carried out since the birth of our Republic. In fact, full-year government funding bills have been considered by Congress every year since 1789. This is perhaps one of our most important responsibilities and one that I do not take lightly as an appropriator.

While the omnibus was not perfect, I have often said that I do not believe shutting down the government solves any political problems. Therefore, when it comes to government funding packages, Congress should not let perfect be the enemy of good – especially at the expense of the American people, but even more so during these challenging times.

At the end of the day, it’s Congress’s job to keep the government running so it can continue providing the essential services you deserve and rely on, and this legislation achieved that goal through a process that required Members on both sides of the aisle, and in both chambers, to reach an agreement that had the President’s support. It’s additionally important to note that a majority of this funding was requested by President Trump in his Fiscal Year 2021 budget proposal to Congress.

Some of the specific wins in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill include, but are not limited, to the following: 

  • Provides our military with the resources to defend our nation and advance U.S. national security and a 3% pay raise for the troops;
  • Provides the Trump Administration $1.375 billion in new funding for the wall and flexibility to manage detention needs along the border;
  • Retains long-standing Second Amendment protections that Democrats wanted to eliminate;
  • Rejects Democrat efforts to defund the police and provides strong support for our nation’s federal, state, and local law enforcement;
  • Provides increased funding for Department of Justice initiatives, such as the STOP School Violence and the COPS Hiring programs, which expand threat assessment, violence prevention, school hardening, and resource officer support;
  • Preserves pro-life protections and other conservative riders in current law;
  • Continues to advance the nation’s “all-of-the-above” solution to energy independence through targeted investments in research and development in all energy sources, including nuclear, fossil, geothermal, and hydropower, as well as solar and wind;
  • Provides $7.5 billion in funding for infrastructure priorities;
  • Fully funds veterans’ healthcare, including the MISSION Act’s community care program, as well as other critical programs;
  • Ends surprise medical billing; and
  • Improves support for rural and underserved health care.

As an active Member of the House Appropriations Committee, I worked diligently this year to ensure priorities for Nevadans were included in this bill. In fact, our work resulted in 48 Nevada-centric priorities being included in the final package. However, since the final bill was negotiated behind closed doors in the eleventh hour by House and Senate leaders, please know that circumventing the regular order process is not something I will ever support. Throughout the process, there was zero help from the U.S. Senate, who chose to not consider any of the House-passed bills sent to them this summer, did not entertain any public hearings or markups, and did not offer any transparency. Unfortunately, this is the political reality we have come to face during election years, which in this particular instance, contributed to any compromise being made until the last minute.

In the end, I was proud to support this package along with Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican Whip Steve Scalise, because despite its flaws, the positives far outweighed the negatives. As we head into the 117th Congress, I certainly believe it would do the majority in the House well to make a few New Year’s resolutions that include putting the political posturing behind us and coming to the negotiating table in a timely manner – especially when American livelihoods depend on it.