On Friday, just before the Supreme Court rejected Attorney General Ken Paxton’s (R-Texas) explosive lawsuit challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election in four key swing states, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to refuse to seat members of the next Congress who support President Donald Trump’s effort to challenge the election results. Pascrell accused the 126 Republicans who supported the Texas lawsuit of “insurrection or rebellion” — or at least, of supporting “insurrection or rebellion” — against the Constitution.
“Stated simply, the men and women who would act to tear the United States Government apart cannot serve as Members of the Congress,” Pascrell said in a letter to Pelosi and a statement he posted on Twitter.
“These lawsuits seeking to obliterate public confidence in our democratic system by invalidating the clear results of the 2020 presidential election undoubtedly attack the text and the spirit of the Constitution, which each Member swears to support and defend,” the Democrat argued. “Today I’m calling on House leaders to refuse to seat any Members trying to overturn the election and make donald trump [sic] an unelected dictator.”
Pascrell cited Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, an elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath… to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort the enemies thereof.”
That amendment barred supporters of the Confederacy — a true rebellion against the U.S. — from serving in Congress after the Civil War.
“Rising from the embers of the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment was written to prevent the destruction of the United States from without and within,” Pascrell wrote to Pelosi. “The moment we face now may be without parallel since 1860. The fate of our democracy depends on us meeting that moment.”
He praised the “courageous Restoration Congress” for implanting “into our governing document safeguards to cleanse from our government ranks any traitors who would seek to destroy the Union.”
Today I’m calling on House leaders to refuse to seat any Members trying to overturn the election and make donald trump an unelected dictator. pic.twitter.com/icTmGKCpuR
— Bill Pascrell, Jr. (@BillPascrell) December 11, 2020
Republicans who supported the Texas lawsuit did not engage in “insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution, however. They are not “traitors” and they do not support turning Trump into an “unelected dictator.”
Paxton’s lawsuit alleged that election officials in key swing states violated the text of election laws duly passed by the state legislatures, which the Constitution vests with the ability to decide how states will choose electors to the Electoral College. The lawsuit asked the Supreme Court to remand the election results to the state legislatures for the legislatures to review and then to direct the legislatures to decide electors who best represent the legal votes, separated from the illegal votes.
Yet Pascrell twisted the demands of the lawsuit, claiming that Paxton’s suit “demands the will of the voters of these states be overturned and the Electoral College votes be stolen and awarded to Donald Trump.”
While the lawsuit is now moot, it is important to note that Trump, Paxton, and the 17 states and 126 House Republicans who joined this complaint were not trying to make Trump an “unelected dictator” by stealing Electoral College votes. Rather, they were trying to address what they understandably see as election abuses and violations of the law.
Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution gives each chamber of Congress ultimate authority to decide its membership. However, in order to expel a member of Congress, two-thirds of the chamber in question must vote in favor of expulsion.
At least 211 Republicans won election to the House of Representatives on November 3, 2020, with at least 222 Democrats also winning seats. Pascrell’s move to unseat 126 Republicans would cut the GOP’s representation in the House by more than half.
Pelosi did not comment on Pascrell’s request, but in a statement after the Supreme Court dismissed the Texas lawsuit, she declared that “the 126 Republican Members that signed onto this lawsuit brought dishonor to teh House. Instead of upholding their oath to support and defend the Constitution, they chose to subvert the Constitution and undermine public trust in our sacred democratic institutions.”
She concluded her statement by declaring that “Republicans must once and for all end their election subversion — immediately.”