Instances of a House member and a senator teaming up are more rare and last took place in 2005. If it occurred, the joint session would immediately pause so lawmakers could go back to their respective chambers to debate the objection for up to two hours. They would then vote on whether to toss out the electoral results of the state in question. Both chambers would have to agree to reject the votes, something that has not happened since the Reconstruction era.
“By ensuring that both chambers must reject a submission, you reduce the risk of Congress going rogue electorally and repudiating the results of a state,” said Edward B. Foley, a constitutional law professor at Ohio State University who studies the electoral process.
Win or lose, Trump’s allies can succeed in casting a shadow on Biden’s victory.
Mr. Trump’s allies, led by Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, have their sights set on challenging five states — Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Wisconsin — where they claim that widespread voting fraud occurred, despite the fact that all five states have certified that the results are valid and there is no evidence of any widespread impropriety.
The key will be recruiting a Republican senator to join them, and so far none has publicly committed to doing so. Without a senator, their efforts will quickly fail and Mr. Biden could be formally declared president-elect in under an hour.
If a senator did sign on to challenge the results, Republicans could force Congress into a final, messy debate over Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede defeat and his baseless claims of election fraud, which have been roundly rejected in court.
Given Democrats’ control of the House and Republicans’ narrow Senate majority, almost no one expects that they would have the votes to succeed in disqualifying a state — much less five. But the debate and vote alone would put Republicans in a difficult position, forcing them to choose between an uncompromising president and their belief in the electoral process. Their choices could likely go a long way in setting the future course of the party, faith in American elections and the perceived legitimacy of a Biden presidency by the Republican base.
Pence may have the most uncomfortable task of all.
At the end of the process, it will be left to Mr. Pence to declare Mr. Biden the winner once and for all, albeit in tangled prose.