Taken out of context, the actions and words of Senators Cruz and Hawley and those of former President Trump seem defensible in a “gentlemen will disagree” sort of way. Hawley, after the fact, said that his vote to challenge Pennsylvania’s certified electoral college electors was a symbolic, protest vote representing the sentiments of his constituents, not a vote to overturn the presidential election outcome. If one examines the context in which Hawley’s vote was made, however, it becomes clear that his vote was an impeachable offense. 

A symbolic vote is one where the undesired outcome is a foregone conclusion but where one wants to register symbolic opposition to that outcome, as Democratic congressional representatives did after Kerry’s defeat by Bush in 2004. Kerry had already conceded, so the symbolic opposition could not have changed that election’s outcome. 

In the case of the Jan. 7 votes by Hawley and Cruz to oppose senate acceptance of Pennsylvania’s and Arizona’s certified electoral college electors, the election loser had not conceded and, in fact, had publicly pleaded with Vice President Pence to challenge the constitutionally mandated electoral college vote-counting process in order to overturn the election results. 

Service in the U.S. Senate is conditioned by two obligations: 1) to represent fairly one’s constituents, and 2) to support the U.S. Constitution. Successful election is not enough. If you cannot support the U.S. Constitution, it does not matter that you won an election; you cannot serve in the U.S. Senate. Hawley and Cruz are both well-trained lawyers and know what the U.S. Constitution stipulates. The constitutionally-mandated senate role in receiving the list of electoral college electors was established in anticipation that one or more states might be unable to settle on an agreed list of electors, in which case the congress would have to step in and resolve the disputed electors through other rules delineated in the constitution. In this instance, however, all 51 lists of electors had been certified. Through their actions and words, Senators Hawley and Cruz knowingly and deliberately violated their oath to abide by the U.S. Constitution and should therefore resign.

William McCarthy

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