House Republicans who supported impeaching former president Donald Trump have banded together for the first time since that episode to express their "extreme dismay" over Democrats challenging a race in Iowa, arguing it will undermine confidence in the electoral process.
In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over the weekend, nine of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump asked her to call off an investigation into the results of the House race in Iowa's 2nd District. After a recount, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks was declared the winner over Democrat Rita Hart, with a difference of just six votes out of 400,000 cast.
Hart alleges that 22 legally cast ballots were not considered during the initial November canvass and subsequent recount, resulting in the tightest congressional electoral outcome in modern history. The House Administration Committee has launched a probe of the case.
The letter from the nine Republicans effectively seeks to flip a common Democratic complaint on its head: that the House's examination of the race serves to bolster false claims by Trump and other Republicans that the country's elections are rife with fraud. Democrats decried Trump's futile efforts to challenge his loss in the courts and in Congress, an atmosphere that led to the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
"This action not only sets a dangerous precedent for future elections, it reinforces the false belief by many in our country that our election system is rigged and that certain politicians can change results to fit their whims," the Republicans wrote. "It is our belief that any attempt to overturn the results of a certified congressional election through a partisan process will be rightfully seen as illegitimate and further erode that trust in our election system."
The signers, including Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyo., the third-ranking GOP member in the House, also wrote that they rebuked Trump because he "repeatedly refuted the results of a certified election, which led to horrific violence in the Capitol Building on January 6th."
The other signers were Reps. Jamie Herrera Beutler, Wash., Adam Kinzinger, Ill., Fred Upton, Mich., John Katko, N.Y., Dan Newhouse, Wash., Anthony Gonzalez, Ohio, David Valadao, Calif., and Peter Meijer, Mich. The tenth House Republican to vote for Trump's impeachment, Rep. Tom Rice, S.C., did not sign the letter; his office did not respond a request for comment.
The letter marks the first time most of the members have joined forces since agreeing with the article of impeachment charging Trump for "incitement of insurrection" and repeatedly undermining the presidential election results. All but Katko have been censured by their state or local Republican Party for their impeachment vote, and many now face primary challenges because of it. Trump was acquitted in the Senate.
"That was not an easy vote for us politically, but it was the right thing to do," the members wrote in the letter.
Miller-Meeks was sworn into Congress in January alongside three other members of the Iowa delegation after the Iowa State Board of Canvassers certified the results of the recount.
Hart petitioned the House in December, which has the responsibility under Article 1, Section 5, of the Constitution to "be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own members." Federal law and House rules specifically give the Administration Committee the jurisdiction to consider such claims.
Her campaign argues that had election workers counted 22 curbside, absentee and provisional ballots during the initial canvass, she would have won by nine votes during the recount. Hart also alleges that the recount board violated Iowa elections law by failing to hand-review write-in ballots and criticized counties for using different counting methods in each precinct.
Republicans are accusing Hart of going straight to the Democratically-controlled House in the hopes that they overturn the election results rather than battling it out in state court.
When asked if there is a scenario where the House could overturn the results of the election earlier this month, Pelosi said "of course." In response to the letter, her office pointed to comments she made last week on ABC News' "This Week," where she pushed back on Republicans claims of hypocrisy.
"Even Justice Scalia agreed that the House has the authority to seat members and therefore we can count the votes - six votes out of 400,000 cast," Pelosi said, referring to late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia. "For them to call anybody hypocritical about elections when two-thirds of them voted against accepting the presidency of Joe Biden - well, it's just who they are."
Contesting elections in the House happens somewhat regularly, though for a small proportion of races overall. Peter Whippy, spokesperson for the House Administration Committee, said there have been 107 elections contested since 1933, which averages about two per Congress. Besides the razor-thin Iowa contest, the House was also asked to weigh in on the 14th district race in Illinois.
Earlier this month, Democrats on the committee voted to throw out a Republican amendment to cease the investigation into the Iowa election - the first indication that they will continue with the review process before making a recommendation to the full House for consideration. Initial briefs from both candidate's lawyers are due Monday.
"Today, none of us can state with confidence who actually won this election," Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the panel's chairwoman, said during a virtual meeting. "Answering that question is a solemn responsibility of this committee and it is our obligation under federal law and under the Constitution. Our answer must be grounded in hard evidence, not bald assumptions."
After conducting an investigation - which could include depositions - the committee can either recommend dismissal, call a new election or declare a candidate the winner, which would prompt a floor vote for all members to agree on their verdict.
During the panel's meeting this month, ranking Republican Rodney Davis (Ill.) echoed fellow Republicans, including Miller-Meeks, who argue that Hart should have filed her appeal to state courts rather than in the House.
Lofgren said the House has never dismissed a case based on a candidate's failure to first contest an election.
The three Republicans on the committee argue that the investigation is only a waste of taxpayer money.
"This is a process we can trust. In fact, we already have," Davis said. "By moving forward with Rita Hart's complaint, this committee is calling into question every single member elected under Iowa law, and frankly, each one of us too."