NASHVILLE — Tennessee Republican U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty on Wednesday and early Thursday voted twice to reject challenges to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden's electoral vote victory.
Six of the state's seven Republican congressmen — including U.S. Reps. Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah and Scott DesJarlais of Sherwood — stuck by President Donald Trump when proceedings resumed after an angry mob egged on by the president attacked the U.S. Capitol, causing chaos and hours of delay before Capitol Police were able to restore order.
The only Republican member of Tennessee's congressional delegation who didn't support the House vote to challenge electoral votes for Arizona and Pennsylvania was U.S. Rep. David Kustoff of Memphis, a former U.S. attorney.
Blackburn, whose 2018 U.S. Senate victory over Democrat Phil Bredesen was helped considerably by Trump, and Hagerty, who served as Trump's U.S. ambassador to Japan and also received help from the president in his 2020 GOP primary, had announced they would join the GOP effort to stand against the election results.
Shortly after the storming of the Capitol, Blackburn changed course, tweeting, "I will vote in support of certifying the Electoral College results."
In another tweet issued during the attack, the Brentwood senator tweeted, "To the protestors that have breached the Capitol building: you are disrupting the democratic process. You should be ashamed of yourself. This is violence. This is a crime. It must stop."
The GOP senators who voted to formally object to the election results cited many of the same concerns about the Nov. 3 presidential election that have been expressed by Trump and the mob that heard him speak on Wednesday and then marched to the Capitol, breached it and terrorized lawmakers. The concerns have been rejected by the states, the courts, the Electoral College and now majorities in the House and Senate.
Hagerty began Wednesday with a tweet supporting the election-rejection effort, stating, "Senator @VoteMarsha and I are opposing the unconstitutional procedures used by key states in the election. We must protect the sanctity of American democracy."
He followed that up after the attack tweeting, "I have always believed in peaceful protesting. What is happening at the U.S. Capitol right now is not peaceful, this is violence. I condemn it in the strongest terms. We are a nation of laws and this must stop."
Neither offered further explanations. Efforts to get comments from a Hagerty campaign spokesman were unsuccessful.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Georgia, who lost to Democrat Raphael Warnock in a runoff election for her seat, gave a full explanation, telling the Senate she had been prepared to vote to object to the certification of Biden's victory.
"However, the events that transpired today have forced me to reconsider and I cannot now in good judgment reject certification of these electors," she said.
Loeffler called the "violence, the lawlessness and siege of the halls of Congress abhorrent" and said they "stand as a direct attack of the very institution my objection was intended to protect — the sanctity of the American democratic process. And I thank law enforcement for keeping us safe."
Here is how Tennessee and Georgia congressmen voted as well as what some said:
Fleischmann: "The violence that occurred at the Capitol Wednesday is an affront to our Republic. Nearly four years ago, my colleagues and I were shot at, and nearly assassinated, on a baseball field in Virginia. It is horrifying that our divisions have only continued to grow since that day in June.
"As I said I would, I voted in support of an objection raised during the Electoral College certification in order to voice concerns about irregularities that occurred in the 2020 election. Millions of Americans, including many of my constituents, have expressed these concerns over these last two months. It has been reported that over 1 in 4 Americans do not believe this election was legitimate. This is a concerning statistic for our future, and we must do all we can moving forward to restore faith in the foundation of our republic, free and fair elections. It is time to come together as a nation and seek to heal our divisions. We are, and have always been, one Nation under God, indivisible."
DesJarlais: Prior to the vote, the congressman commented on the riot, saying the "First Amendment is a cherished right, but the actions of some today were unacceptable and should be punished. I condemn these lawless actions."
He also stated prior to the vote that "My constituents have made it explicitly clear to me that they want the assurance of a free and fair election. At the very least it is my hope that this is a catalyst for change in our current election practices to make them more secure."
U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett: The Republican and former Knox County mayor denounced the attack on the Capitol. Regarding his vote, Burchett told the Knoxville News Sentinel that "this is not about President Trump, it is about the United States Constitution and upholding election integrity." He went on to say the Constitution "gives state legislatures the sole authority to determine how electors are chosen from their respective states, not attorneys general, not governors, not the courts, and certainly not county-level election officials. Rather than resorting to violence, this needs to be a democratic moment, where Congress works with state legislatures to strengthen our electoral process. Every American, whether their candidate wins or loses, needs to have confidence in the results."
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen: The Memphis Democrat voted to block Republican efforts to stall certification and launch a 10-day audit of returns in six key swing states. "I blame Donald Trump for this entire episode. He has continually pushed the false idea that the election he lost by seven million votes was 'stolen' from him. As recently as last Saturday, he urged the Georgia Secretary of State to 'find' the votes he needed to win that state.
"Trump's sixty lawsuits, claiming without evidence that irregularities and fraud explained his loss, have been denied, including by Republican and Trump-appointed judges, and his arguments for a victory have gone from bizarre to delusional. After today's invasion of the Capitol, he must be stopped. We are not safe as a country until this man is out of office," Cohen added.
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper: The Nashville Democrat also voted against GOP efforts to stall certification. In advance of the debate, Cooper tweeted that "every member of the House and Senate has sworn an oath to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution and to protect it from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Today, a handful of Senators and too many House Republicans will break that oath."
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia: The Rome Republican, a staunch supporter of Trump, voted to reject certification and create the audit.
"The framers intended that Congress be the last line of defense to protect our elections. It's our duty. That's why I rose today to object to the electoral votes of Pennsylvania," she said.
U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Georgia: The Greensboro Republican objected to certification and denounced Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, alluding to "fraudulent actions of the Secretary of State" that "unlawfully changed the state election process without approval of the General Assembly and thereby setting the stage for an unprecedented amount of fraud and irregularity."
Also voting yes on the challenge on certification were Tennessee Republican congressmen John Rose of Cookeville and Diana Harshbarger of Kingsport.
Other Georgia Republican congressmen who voted against certification and initiate the audit were Rick Allen, Buddy Carter, Andrew Clyde, Barry Loudermilk.
Voting for certification were Georgia Congressmen Drew Ferguson and Austin Scott.
All Georgia Democratic congressional members voted for certification.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.