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House member explains position

by Byron Tate | January 8, 2021 at 3:05 a.m.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman is shown in this undated photo.

Congressman Bruce Westerman released a statement Thursday explaining why he did not object to the outcome of the presidential election, saying that while Congress has a final check on electors, it's up to states to decide how their elections should be conducted.

Westerman also condemned Wednesday's assault on the nation's Capitol by a pro-Trump mob that led to the deaths of four individuals.

"While members of Congress were peaceably and constitutionally debating the electoral votes yesterday, rioters violently stormed the U.S. Capitol, resulting in death, destruction and a national disgrace," Westerman said. "This is unacceptable, and I condemn these actions in the strongest terms."

Westerman's press secretary had said Tuesday that the congressman was considering signing on with as many as 140 other House members during the final count and certification of electors for the November presidential election, in which Joseph Biden defeated Donald Trump, with Biden receiving 306 electoral college votes to 232 for Trump. The press secretary, Rebekah Hoshiko, said Westerman was weighing what his constituents were telling him with his own personal convictions and his duty to the Constitution.

In the end, the only delegate from Arkansas to oppose the results of the 2020 presidential election results was 1st District Rep. Rick Crawford.

"The Constitution explicitly outlines that federal elections are state legislatures' responsibility, giving Congress a final check with a provision to object to electors," Westerman said. "I've said all along that we should let our court system work, and I supported a variety of legal challenges to investigate election fraud allegations. However, I did not object to the final count of electors."

The procedure, which is normally an afterthought in the process of naming a president, took on more urgency as Trump continued to claim in speeches and on social media that the election was fraudulent and had been stolen from him. Thousands of protesters amassed around the Capitol as House and Senate members took up the certification process. Trump riled up the crowd with more of such language to the point that many of them stormed the building, breached security and made their way inside. Lawmakers had been quickly moved from their chambers to safe places.

But later in the evening, the two chambers reconvened and took up the matter that had been interrupted for several hours earlier. As the process progressed, it became clear that there was less stomach for objecting to the presidential election outcome. At one time, 14 senators said they would sign on in opposition, but after the dramatic events, eight actually did so.

Westerman said that even if there had been a majority of votes to oppose the outcome, it wouldn't have mattered.

"Last night's failed votes in Congress did nothing to change the outcome of the Nov. 3 election, nor could they have changed it had they passed," he said. "As much as we may not like the results of an election, resorting to mob rule is wholly un-American. We can – we must – be better than this."

It was a startling scene in the nation's capital, with many leaders from around the world expressing shock and dismay over what had transpired in the United States where such an incident such as this would not be considered possible. Westerman said the votes to oppose the outcome of a presidential election in which more than 155 million people voted could have damaged the Constitution.

"Through some of our country's darkest days, we've maintained a peaceful transition of power," he said. "This year should be no different. We cannot flirt with undoing the very foundation of our Constitution and pretend that it will all work out in the end."

Westerman said that, in the end, his one and only job was to protect the Constitution.

"My oath was not to defend a party or a person, it was to defend the Constitution of the United States," he said. "I will never stop fighting for the Constitution and conservative ideals in Congress, and I know many of you feel as though your voice isn't being heard. It is, but changes must be done through the appropriate channels. Now, more than ever, we need to demonstrate strong leadership and work to restore trust in our election process through independent audits, oversight and more.

"This much is clear: What happened yesterday on many different levels must never happen again."

The certification of votes finished up in the wee hours of Thursday morning, clearing the way for President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris to be sworn in on Jan. 20.

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