Support grew Tuesday for an argument spelled out by U.S. Rep. Ken Buck opposing an attempt by fellow Republicans to undo the results of the presidential election.
In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Buck and 11 House Republicans criticized a GOP strategy to reverse Democrat Joe Biden's win over President Donald Trump, maintaining the Constitution doesn't grant Congress the authority to substitute its judgment for states that have certified slates of presidential electors.
"We must respect the states' authority here," wrote Buck, the outgoing chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. "Though doing so may frustrate our immediate political objectives, we have sworn an oath to promote the Constitution above our policy goals. We must count the electoral votes submitted by the states."
The letter, first reported by Punchbowl's Jake Sherman, duplicates a lengthy statement issued Sunday by Buck and six other leading House conservatives, including U.S. Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Chip Roy of Texas and Tom McClintock of California. Since the statement's release, another five GOP lawmakers have added their signatures to the document.
"Public letters are often meaningless in Washington; they're really just fancy press releases," Sherman tweeted. "But the fact that Rep. Ken Buck ... and this clutch is now coalition-building against challenging the election is meaningful and shows the havoc Trump is causing inside the party."
Congress meets in joint session Wednesday to certify Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win in the face of anticipated objections by at least a dozen GOP senators and more than 100 House Republicans who want to thwart counting the electoral votes submitted by six states won by Biden.
Buck and the others argue that the gambit — supported by fellow Colorado Republicans U.S. Reps. Lauren Boebert and Doug Lamborn — would defy the Constitution, allowing Congress to usurp power from the states and overturn the vote of the people.
"To take action otherwise — that is, to unconstitutionally insert Congress into the center of the presidential election process — would amount to stealing power from the people and the states," the letter says.
The letter also asks Republicans to acknowledge the move would undermine the Electoral College, jeopardizing the GOP's chances of winning future presidential elections.
"If we perpetuate the notion that Congress may disregard certified electoral votes — based solely on its own assessment that one or more states mishandled the presidential election — we will be delegitimizing the very system that led Donald Trump to victory in 2016, and that could provide the only path to victory in 2024," it says.
Republican presidential candidates have only carried the national popular vote once in the last three decades — George W. Bush's 2004 re-election — but have won the presidency in the Electoral College two other times, in 2000 when Bush was first elected and 2016 when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.
The letter’s other signers are U.S. Reps. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Nancy Mace of South Carolina, Ann Wagner of Missouri, Austin Scott of Georgia, Ashley Hinson of Iowa, Dan Newhouse of Washington and Peter Meijer of Michigan.
Buck mounts a more detailed defense of the Electoral College in a Washington Post op-ed published Tuesday, arguing that Republicans "should avoid the temptation of using this system in a misguided effort to jettison a presidential election."
The institution, he writes, plays a "vital role in preserving our system of federalism" by balancing Americans' right to vote for president with a desire to prevent voters in small states from being ignored.
"The electoral college is a safeguard on our system of federalism and individual liberty — not an invitation to do an end-run around election results."
In the op-ed, Buck takes a swipe at the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact — an agreement Colorado voters agreed to join in November — as an end-run around passing a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College.
States belonging to the compact, which doesn't take effect until a sufficient number of states sign on to elect a president, agree to assign their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.