If the Republicans take back the U.S. House of Representatives this year, they will be able to overturn a future presidential election, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., warned.
“If we lose the House, this is no joke,” Ocasio-Cortez said at a town hall meeting Wednesday. “January 6 was a trial run, and a lot of people don’t seem to understand that.”
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“It was a trial run, and they’re going to come back,” the congresswoman warned. “Here’s the technicality of what happened on January 6: the only reason it wasn’t worse was because Democrats had the House and they didn’t have the votes in the House.”
“If they take the House, then they have the votes to not authorize and legitimize the presidential election, whatever the results are,” Ocasio-Cortez concluded.
On Jan. 6, 2021, after then-President Trump had repeatedly claimed that the 2020 election had been stolen from him, thousands of his supporters left his rally at Freedom Plaza near the White House and headed toward the Capitol. Lawmakers evacuated the complex and temporarily suspended the certification of the Electoral College results as rioters broke through police lines and entered the building.
A Capitol Police officer fatally shot Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran, who was attempting to force her way into the House chamber. Another person died during the riot after suffering a drug overdose, and two others died naturally from medical emergencies. Brian Sicknick, a 42-year-old Capitol Police officer, got hit with pepper spray during the chaos and died the next day after suffering from two strokes. Four other officers who responded to the riot committed suicide in the months following.
Most Republican elected officials loudly condemned the riot, although many of them voted to object to the election results in specific states.
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Six Senate Republicans and 121 House Republicans backed objections to certifying Arizona’s election results, while seven Senate Republicans and 138 House Republicans objected to certifying Pennsylvania’s results. It remains unclear whether these Republicans would stand by those votes.
These numbers represented a small portion of the Republicans in the Senate (six and seven of 51) and a majority of Republicans in the House (121 and 138 of 211). It would have required a majority of the House and Senate to block the certification of the Electoral College votes. Even if the events of the 2020 election were repeated in 2024 and Republicans had a commanding majority in both houses, these numbers do not suggest that Republicans would unite to overturn an election in both houses.
Republicans cited alleged irregularities, new voting policies justified in the name of combating the COVID-19 pandemic, and the grants from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonprofit that funneled money to local election offices, bankrolled by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Republicans have championed reforms they frame in terms of bolstering election integrity, rolling back some COVID-19 measures.
Meanwhile, Democrats have condemned the GOP reforms as attempts to roll back voting rights, with President Biden referring to Georgia’s election reform law as “Jim Crow on steroids.” (One fact-checker faulted Biden’s characterization as “incredibly disingenuous.”)
In January, Biden hesitated to say whether he would acknowledge the legitimacy of the 2022 midterm election results, if Democrat election reform bills failed in Congress.
“The increase of the prospect of it being illegitimate is in direct proportion to us not being able to get these reforms passed,” the president said. He added that Democrats are not going to assume “that the attempt fails.”
Critics have mocked Ocasio-Cortez for claiming, “I thought I was going to die” during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.