Comparing the mobs of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to the armed gangs that brought down the Roman Republic, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, in an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, called on his colleagues to reject attempts to undo the election of Joe Biden.
Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, spoke late Wednesday when lawmakers returned to the Capitol, hours after violent supporters of President Donald Trump forced the House and Senate to interrupt debate over challenges to to Biden's electoral College victory over Trump.
"Colleagues, it has been a terrible day for everybody here and for our country," Bennet said as lawmakers resumed discussion over an objection lodged earlier in the day by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to counting Arizona's electoral votes.
Bennet excoriated Cruz and other Republicans for "twist[ing] the words" of a 19th century law they claim allows Congress to pick and choose which state's electoral votes to count. He also mocked the Republicans for basing their complaints about the integrity of the election on disproven theories that have been rejected by dozens of judges, including some who have "howled the president's lawyers out of the courtroom because there's no evidence of fraud."
Bennet also addressed another argument routinely advanced by Trump's allies, who insist that they're raising objections to the loss because their constituents believe unfounded theories that the Democrats stole the election.
"And by the way, the fact that 37% or 39% of Americans think there's evidence of fraud does not mean there is fraud," Bennet said. "If you turned a blind eye to a conspiracy theory, you can't now come to the floor of the Senate and say, ‘You're ignoring the people who believe the election was stolen.’ Go out there and tell them the truth, which is that every single member of this Senate knows this election wasn't stolen."
Urging his fellow senators to heed the lessons of the past, Bennet said he was often struck in the Senate chambers how the framers of the U.S. Constitution knew their history better than contemporary Americans do.
"I was thinking about that history today as we saw the mob riot in Washington, D.C.," he said, noting that the armed gangs who prevented elections from taking place in Rome led to the fall of the republic and the installation of a dictator.
"So, it is my fervent hope that the way we respond to this today, my dear colleagues, is that we give the biggest bipartisan vote we can in support of our democracy and in support of our Constitution and in rejection for what we saw today and what the Roman Republic saw in its own time."
After several other senators spoke, the objection to counting Arizona's 11 electoral votes was defeated by an overwhelming, bipartisan 93-6 vote. Colorado's junior senator, Democrat John Hickenlooper, who was sworn into office Sunday, voted with the majority to reject the objection.
Here's the full text of Bennet's address:
"Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thank you, Mr. President.
"Colleagues, it has been a terrible day for everybody here and for our country. One of the things I was thinking about today is something I often think about when I’m on this floor, and that is the founders of this country, the people that wrote our Constitution, actually knew our history better than we know our history. And I was thinking about that history today as we saw the mob riot in Washington, D.C., thinking about what the founders were thinking about when they wrote our Constitution, which is what happened to the Roman Republic when armed gangs doing the work for politicians prevented Rome from casting their ballots for consuls, for praetors, for senators. These were the offices in Rome, and these armed gangs ran through the streets of Rome keeping elections from being started, keeping elections from ever being called. And in the end, because of that, the Roman Republic fell and a dictator took its place. And that was the end of the Roman Republic, or any republic for that matter, until this beautiful Constitution was written in the United States of America.
"So, it is my fervent hope that the way we respond to this today, my dear colleagues, is that we give the biggest bipartisan vote we can in support of our democracy and in support of our Constitution and in rejection for what we saw today and what the Roman Republic saw in its own time.
"There's a tendency around this place, I think, to always believe that we're the first people to confront something when that's seldom the case, and to underappreciate what the effect of our actions will be. We need to deeply appreciate in this moment our obligation to the Constitution, our obligation to the democracy, our obligation to the republic.
"There are people in this chamber that have twisted the words, twisted the words of a statute written in the 19th century that was meant to actually settle our electoral disputes, to leave them with the states, as the senator from Utah was saying, to give us a ministerial role, except in very rare circumstances. That’s what that law is about, that the senator from Texas was talking about today. And that's the law that's leading us to be asked to overturn the judgments of 60 courts in America, many of them courts in Arizona, some of whom have howled the president's lawyers out of the courtroom because there's no evidence of fraud.
"And by the way, the fact that 37% or 39% of Americans think there's evidence of fraud does not mean there is fraud. If you turned a blind eye to a conspiracy theory, you can't now come to the floor of the Senate and say, ‘You're ignoring the people who believe the election was stolen.’ Go out there and tell them the truth, which is that every single member of this Senate knows this election wasn't stolen, and that we, just as in the Roman Republic, have a responsibility to protect the independence of the judiciary from politicians who will stop at nothing to hold on to power. There's nothing new about that either. That's been true since the first republic was founded.
"So, now we find ourselves in a position just days after many senators here swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, every single member of the House of Representatives swore the same oath as well. And I think we've got a solemn obligation and responsibility here to prove once again that this country is a nation of laws and not of men, and the only result that we can reach together is one that rejects the claim of the senator from Texas and the other members of the House and Senate who seek to overturn the decisions that were made by the states, by the voters in the states, and by the courts.
"If we follow what they have proposed, we will be the ones that will have disenfranchised every single person who cast a vote in this election, whether they voted for the president or they didn't. I urge you to reject this, and I deeply appreciate the opportunity to serve with every single one of you.
"Thank you, Mr. President."