Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday said in a letter he has no constitutional power to stop the certification of Joe Biden as president-elect, thus rejecting calls from President Trump to block Biden from being inaugurated.
Pence, under the U.S. Constitution, oversees the counting of electoral votes in a joint session of Congress, which began meeting Wednesday. Shortly after the session opened, members went into separate chambers when two GOP legislators, one from the House and one from the Senate, objected to the certification of Arizona’s electors.
Trump in recent days repeatedly urged Pence to get involved, saying in a Wednesday tweet that if Pence “comes through for us, we will win the Presidency.”
If Vice President @Mike_Pence comes through for us, we will win the Presidency. Many States want to decertify the mistake they made in certifying incorrect & even fraudulent numbers in a process NOT approved by their State Legislatures (which it must be). Mike can send it back!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2021
But Pence said in his letter he has no such power.
“Some believe that as Vice President, I should be able to accept or reject electoral votes unilaterally,” Pence wrote. “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 President is the chief executive officer of the Federal Government under our Constitution, possessing immense power to impact the lives of the American people. The Presidency belongs to the American people, and to them alone. When disputes concerning a presidential election arise, under Federal law, it is the people’s representatives who review the evidence and resolve disputes through a democratic process.
“Our Founders were deeply skeptical of concentrations of power and created a Republic based on separation of powers and checks and balances under the Constitution of the United States. Vesting the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide presidential contests would be entirely antithetical to that design,” Pence wrote.
The 12th Amendment says of the process: “The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted; – The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President.” The vice president is president of the Senate.
“As a student of history who loves the Constitution and reveres its Framers,” Pence wrote, “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, and no Vice President in American history has ever asserted such authority. Instead, Vice Presidents presiding over Joint Sessions have uniformly followed the Electoral Count Act, conducting the proceedings in an orderly manner even where the count resulted in the defeat of their party or their own candidacy.”
Pence quoted former Supreme Court Justice Joseph Bradley who wrote in 1876, “the powers of the President of the Senate are merely ministerial … He is not invested with any authority for making any investigation outside of the Joint Meeting of the two Houses.”
“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 not,” Pence wrote.
Pence, though, said Congress has the power to address “voting irregularities that took place in our November elections and the disregard of state election statutes by some officials.”
“I welcome the efforts,” Pence wrote of Senate and House members who are objecting to the certification of certain states.
Meanwhile, Pence said in the letter he urges both sides to set “politics and personal interests” aside and “do our part to faithfully discharge our duties under the Constitution.”
“I also pray that we will do so with humility and faith, remembering the words of John Quincy Adams, who said, ‘Duty is ours; results are God’s.’
“Four years ago, surrounded by my family, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, which ended with the words, ‘So help me God.’ Today I want to assure the American people that I will keep the oath I made to them and I will keep the oath I made to Almighty God,” he wrote. “When the Joint Session of Congress convenes today, I will do my duty to see to it that we open the certificates of the Electors of the several states, we hear objections raised by Senators and Representatives, and we count the votes of the Electoral College for President and Vice President in a manner consistent with our Constitution, laws, and history.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Mark Wilson/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.