Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith was one of few U.S. senators on Wednesday to object to the certification of the electoral votes in Arizona and Pennsylvania, states that duly elected Democrat Joe Biden as president in November over Republican President Donald Trump.
Hyde-Smith, an ardent Trump supporter, backed the effort of a small number of Senate Republicans who aimed to overturn Biden’s victory by pushing disproven theories and inaccuracies about Arizona and Pennsylvania botching the election process.
The senator had remained silent before Wednesday about how she would vote on the certification of the Biden presidential victory in several states. In a statement on Wednesday night, Hyde-Smith said she heard from “many Mississippians who are troubled by the conduct of the election in various states and the eventual outcome.”
“I, along with my constituents, are alarmed with the erosion of integrity of the electoral process,” Hyde-Smith said in the statement. “The people I represent do not believe the presidential election was constitutional and cannot accept the electoral college decision; therefore, I cannot in good conscience support certification.”
All six senators who objected to the Arizona certification and the seven who objected to Pennsylvania on Wednesday night were Republicans and loyal supporters of the current president. The other senators voted to certify the elections, with key leaders in both the Republican and Democratic parties blistering their colleagues who planned to vote against certification.
“Trump and I, we’ve had a hell of a journey. All I can say is count me out, enough is enough,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican. “When it’s over, it is over. It’s over.”
Republican Roger Wicker, Mississippi’s senior U.S. senator, voted to certify all 50 state results.
“(The Trump) campaign lost a close election, and it is time to acknowledge that,” Wicker said in a statement earlier this week. “The president’s own attorney general, his head of election security, and a number of Trump-appointed, conservative federal judges all have found that, despite widespread allegations of fraud, there simply was not enough evidence to change the outcome of the election in any state.”
Wicker continued: “I know many of my fellow Mississippians will disagree with my decision, and I share their commitment to making sure our elections are fair. But I must vote according to my conscience, my oath of office, and my understanding of the rule of law. I hope that with the start of a new Congress, we can take steps to restore faith in America’s electoral system.”
Congress met in joint session on Wednesday to certify the electoral votes from the states. Biden, a Democrat, received 306 of the 538 elector votes from the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Though the certification of the electoral votes from the states is normally a formality, the law allows Congress to reject them and theoretically select the new president.
Republicans did not have nearly enough votes in the House or Senate to reject the Biden election, and constitutional scholars questioned whether Congress could overturn the results in the first place.
A group of House and Senate Republicans — ardent supporters of Trump, who has for weeks pushed disproven theories about widespread election fraud — indicated last week they would challenge those electoral votes from certain states Biden won.
But the proceedings were abruptly halted on Wednesday afternoon when a violent mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, aiming to overturn the results of the election.
The pro-Trump rioters — incited earlier Wednesday morning by the president’s oldest son and other close allies of the president — assaulted Capitol Police officers, smashed windows and tore down security barricades on their way into the building, prompting officials to lock down both legislative chambers of the building and nearby congressional office buildings.
The moment marked the first time that the Capitol was breached by a large, violent group since the War of 1812. Several high-profile members of Congress were evacuated, and others were told to shelter in place during the hours-long lockdown.
By the time police cleared the Capitol and lawmakers returned to finish the certification process on Wednesday evening, several of the Republicans in both the House and Senate who had earlier planned to object to elector certification reversed their positions.
Many Republicans even called Trump out specifically for inciting the violence.
“The events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider, and I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors,” said Sen. Kelly Leoffler, a Republican from Georgia who’d previously planned to object. “The violence, the lawlessness… stand as a direct attack on the very institution my objection was intended to protect.”
Many pundits believe Trump singlehandedly saved Hyde-Smith’s Senate candidacy in the 2018 special election after she said she would sit “on the front row of a public hanging” with a supporter. Trump hosted three Mississippi rallies for Hyde-Smith in 2018, when she narrowly won a special election to replace longtime Sen. Thad Cochran, who stepped down for health reasons.