JOE BIDEN’S LAST ‘HURDLE’

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Anyone who has followed Joe Biden’s odyssey through the US presidential election will agree that he has faced hurdles. Biden has been up against an incumbent in President Donald Trump who won’t leave the White House without a fight. So far though, all Trump’s efforts at discrediting the election with unsubstantiated claims of voting irregularities, including using the courts have failed.

Biden’s first hurdle was the election proper. The second hurdle was the Electoral College votes. If it were a “normal” time, the latter was all that stood between Biden and the White House. But like I said, this is not a “normal” time. And it doesn’t help that some claim to “prophesy” a second term for Trump, leaving many waiting with bated breath who will be sworn in as president on inauguration day.

Now, the Electoral College votes will be brought to Congress to be counted on January 6. It’s usually a formality. Just to rubber stamp what has already been.

But already, about 140 House Republicans said they’ll vote against the counting of the electoral votes on that date. That’s only part of it.

Who is the president of the Senate? It’s Donald Trump’s second in command, Vice President Mike Pence!

Some fear that the Devil might enter Pence, and make him do the unimaginable.

Trump hasn’t stopped twitting. He recently wrote, “the ‘Justice’ Department and FBI have done nothing about the 2020 Presidential Election Voter Fraud,” and added: “Never give up. See everyone in D.C. on January 6th.”

Trump is counting on Pence’s loyalty, as well as support from his party members in Congress to invalidate the election, by throwing out duly certified votes meant for Biden.

Pence is not expected to act unconstitutionally. But he himself has not acknowledged openly that Biden won, fueling the suspicion that he might have an ace up his sleeve.

Just recently, he said, “We’re going to keep fighting until every legal vote is counted. We’re going to win Georgia, we’re going to save America.”

But constitutionally speaking, Joe Biden as president is a done deal. There is nothing Mike Pence, or anyone can do about it. The best they can do is to delay proceedings.

According to Article II of the US Constitution and the 12th Amendment, what is to be done on the 6th of January is for Electoral College votes to be opened by the “president of the Senate,” who is the Vice President, and who happens to be Mike Pence. To be sure, in the 1876 election there was confusion. But that was settled with the coming of the Electoral Count Act in 1887. It provides how long it should take to collate electoral votes, with the final part being the counting of the Electoral College votes, with clear roles for the Vice President.

It says he will be the “presiding officer”. In other words he oversees what will go on that day. He will open the ballot envelopes, he will then show the results to a group of tellers. After that he will call for any objections to the votes by members of Congress. He will then announce the votes that have been objected to, and finally, the results.

Pence might be tempted to act in a way to favour his boss, which ultimately favours he himself. But democracy in God’s own country should have gone above that—we hope!

Those who wrote the Electoral Count Act knew that for it to stand unquestioned, there should be no interference in any form by the vice president. He has no right to throw out votes from any state. And in the event that there is disagreement, both chambers of Congress must find fault with that state’s electoral votes before they can be rejected. Just as well, they also made it extremely hard for Congress not to agree, with things like the “safe harbor”, and by the Congress agreeing with the results the states have put forward.

To be fair, it’s a difficult thing to do when you have to announce a result where you lost.

But in 1960, Richard Nixon, then as vice president, was the one that counted the votes for John Kennedy who was his opponent. Also, Al Gore did the same, with George Bush whom he contested against.

Already, a federal judge has dealt a fatal blow to what might have been Trump’s last chance, when he threw out a lawsuit being pushed by a House Republican that was geared towards giving Vice President Mike Pence the power to overturn the results of the Electoral College votes.

Perhaps, as some feel, Pence might look for a cop-out for not presiding over the electoral vote count on January 6. He might instead ask Senator Charles Grassley, president pro tempore, a Republican, a person who accepts Joe Biden’s victory, to be the presiding officer. By doing that, Pence would not have offended his boss. The process of Biden’s inauguration will stay on course, while the fantasy that Biden’s victory was illegitimate will be maintained.

Dr Cosmas Odoemena, medical practitioner, Lagos