Mariannette Miller-Meeks and the Iowa Second District Election Controversy in Congress, Explained

An Iowa Democrat who narrowly lost a House seat has asked Congress to review her career in an investigation that could lead to her taking the place of the Republican who was sworn in in January. And now Republican members of Congress are trying to cash in on the alleged hypocrisy, presenting the review as a Democratic effort to overturn the outcome of a certified legislative election.

Republicans’ attempts to do so are based on a false equivalence.

Democrats widely denounced attempts by former President Donald Trump and his Republican facilitators to overturn the outcome of their election. Republicans say that Democrats agree to repeal the election, as long as it benefits their party.

But the situations are not the same. Trump clearly lost the fair and square presidential election, but nonetheless tried to invalidate millions of votes from numerous states for the flimsiest of reasons. The Iowa House candidate, on the other hand, is following a long-standing procedure by asking the House of Representatives to review 22 ballots that it says were improperly disqualified.

Yet the optics of Democrats challenging an election so soon after the failed attempt to install Trump for a second term is providing material for Republican attacks.

The race for Iowa’s Second Congressional District was extremely close

The second seat in the Iowa Congressional district is currently held by Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks. Miller-Meeks prevailed over Democratic candidate Rita Hart by just six votes out of nearly 400,000 cast last November.

After a recount, Miller-Meeks’ victory was certified by the Iowa State Board of Electors in late November. Hart’s campaign responded to the certification with a statement noting that the recount “was designed to count the ballots that had already been counted, which means that additional legal ballots may not yet have been counted.”

Rather than file a challenge in state court, Hart challenged the result under the Federal Contested Elections Act on the basis that 22 votes that she claimed were legally cast were not counted (and therefore not were included in the count). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi provisionally seated Miller-Meeks at the beginning of the House term in January, but the House Administrations Committee is considering Hart’s challenge, and Pelosi recently said that “it could have a scenario “in which the entire House finally votes to seat Hart. It is a process that has been carried out more than 100 times, with very little success.

Republicans wasted no time jumping around after the House Administration Committee voted to hear Hart’s challenge on March 15. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy last week accused Democrats of trying to “steal a race” by entertaining Hart’s challenge. Meanwhile, in remarks to the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell alluded to former President Donald Trump’s attempt to reverse his electoral defeat and accused Democrats of hypocrisy.

“The process unfolded the way all liberals in America spent November, December, and January insisting that it was beyond question. But there is a catch. This time, the Republican won and the Democrat lost, ”McConnell said.

Then this week, a group of Republican Senators, including McConnell, Tom Cotton, and the two Republican Senators from Iowa, Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, wrote an open letter to businesses promising to stop donating to Republicans who were backing the efforts of Trump to revoke the November presidential election. , asking them to take “the same position with respect to members of the House of Representatives who are about to revoke a state-certified election in the second congressional district in Iowa.”

“We ask that you apply the same standard to this attempt to overturn an election that applied to Republicans who opposed the electoral votes of certain states, and that you publicly condemn the actions of Democrats seeking to overturn the state-certified election of Representative Miller-Meeks, ”they wrote. “If you decide not to speak out about this blatant attempt to steal the election, some may question the sincerity of your previous statements and draw the conclusion that your actions were partisan rather than principled.”

But there is one big difference between Hart’s challenge and Trump’s effort to reverse the presidential election that was endorsed by a majority of Republicans in the House and a handful of them in the Senate: The Miller-Meeks race was actually a chirp. The loss of Trump was not.

Kevin McCarthy is trying to turn around the critics of his efforts to end democracy

Hart’s challenge is based on the claim that there is a quantifiable set of ballots that were not counted, but should be, and that could change the outcome of the elections.

Trump’s challenge was not that specific; He pushed forward conspiracy theories about fraud related to voting machines and also claimed that pandemic-related changes to state election procedures were unconstitutional and thus annulled the entire election. He and his attorneys were unable to present evidence of his conspiracy theories, and his legal arguments were rejected in court after court, even by the judges he appointed.

Despite the fragility of Trump’s arguments, Republicans lined up behind them. One hundred thirty-nine House Republicans and eight Senate Republicans voted on January 6 to overturn the results in one or more states that President Joe Biden won. Since they were unable to gather evidence that fraud had occurred, their rationale for rejecting the results was based on obviously circular reasoning about how mere suspicions that fraud had occurred justified dismissing the results.

McCarthy was one of the Republicans who backed Trump’s efforts. During a press conference on March 17, CNN reporter Manu Raju pressured McCarthy to explain the difference “between the efforts [in Iowa] to override the House election, in the face of Donald Trump’s efforts to override the Congressional election that you supported. “

The House Minority Leader’s response was to argue that he did not really support the annulment of the presidential election because he only voted to discard the results from Arizona and Pennsylvania, and removing those two states from Biden’s column would not have been. enough to nullify the results. . But what he failed to acknowledge is that in December he supported a legal challenge to Biden’s victory that was rejected by the Supreme Court but could have had a big effect on the election.

Republicans have responded that Trump took his complaints to the judiciary (of course, he also suggested that he hoped the Supreme Court justices he had appointed would help him win, regardless of ballot totals) and have complained that Hart did not contest the decision. election in Iowa courts before appealing to the House of Representatives. Hart’s attorneys argue there was no time to do so, but Miller-Meeks supporters argue that Hart only wanted the Democratic-controlled House to hear his challenge. Hart, however, has the legal right to challenge the election in the House, and the House is legally bound to hear it.

Because of this legal basis, House Administration Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) issued a statement earlier this week calling on Republicans to stop politicizing Hart’s challenge.

“Republicans know how this process works: Over the past 90 years, Congress has adjudicated, in a bipartisan fashion, more than 100 contested election cases filed by Republicans and Democrats alike in races that are not close to Iowa’s Second,” He said. “With that story in mind, it is deeply disappointing that some of my Republican colleagues are describing this process as dire.”

But even if the House Administrations Committee takes the matter to the House floor, it appears that some Democrats, anticipating attacks from the Republicans, would not be willing to seat Hart.

Hart’s challenge faces an uphill battle

As the Wall Street Journal detailed Thursday, Democratic Representatives Dean Phillips (MN), Elissa Slotkin (MI) and Josh Gottheimer (NJ) have already indicated some caution about voting to unseat Miller-Meeks.

Losing a House election by six votes is painful for Democrats. But repealing it in the House would be even more painful for the United States. Just because the majority can does not mean the majority should, ”Phillips tweeted Monday.

With House divided 219-211, just four Democratic defections would be enough to defeat any effort to seat Hart, assuming Republicans remain united against him.

So while Miller-Meeks’s apparent victory is unlikely to be overturned, Hart’s legal challenge is to provide elected Republicans and Fox News with a stick to attack Democrats for allegedly being guilty of what they recently accused the Republicans. Republicans.

However, when the facts of the matter are unraveled, it becomes clear that the Republican talking points about what is happening in Iowa are misleading. Hart is not claiming that an election was stolen from him because he lost, but rather that a handful of ballots were not counted that maybe they should have, and that not including them in the vote total means people in Iowa’s 2nd Ward don’t have the right. To do it. rep they preferred.

But the likes of McCarthy and McConnell are unwilling to let facts get in the way of their narrative.

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