Minutes before lawmakers headed into a joint session of Congress to begin their challenge of the Electoral College's vote for Joe Biden, Vice President Mike Pence issued a statement saying that he can't heed President Donald Trump's call to reject the electoral votes.
"Some believe that as Vice President, I should be able to accept or reject votes unilaterally," Pence said in his statement. "Others believe that electoral votes should never be challenged in a joint session of Congress. After a careful study of our Constitution, our laws, and our history, I believe neither view is correct."
The presidency, he continued, belongs to the American people, and "to them alone," and as such, when disputes arise, under federal law, "it is the people's representatives who review the evidence and resolve disputes through a democratic process."
He added that the nation's founders were skeptical of concentrations of power and instituted "separation of powers and checks and balances" under the Constitution.
"Vesting the vice president with unilateral authority to decide presidential contests would be entirely antithetical to that design," Pence wrote. "As a student of history who loves the Constitution and reveres its framers, I do not believe that the founders of our country intended to invest the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted during the Joint Session of Congress."
No vice president in American history has ever asserted that authority, he continued, but instead conducted proceedings "in an orderly manner even where the count resulted in the defeat of their party or their own candidacy...it is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should be not."
However, he said, given the "voting irregularities" that took place in the November elections and the "disregard of state election statutes by some officials," Pence said he does welcome the efforts of congressional Republicans who are using their authority to raise objections and present evidence.
"I will ensure that any objections that are sponsored by both a Representative and a Senator are given proper considerations and that all facts supporting those objections are brought before the Congress and the American people," he said.
He also rejected arguments that raising objections is improper or not democratic, saying that to do so ignores more than 130 years of history, and fails to acknowledge that Democrats have raised objections in Congress during the last three times Republicans have won the presidency.
Pence's statement was released while Trump was addressing thousands of supporters gathered in Washington as the joint session was to start.
Trump also mentioned Pence in his remarks, calling on him to take action on the objections to the Electoral College.
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