Darrell Issa is interviewed at Election Central in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

By Lewis Griswold | Reuters

Despite the storming of the Capitol, most Republican members of Congress from California still joined doomed attempts to reject the electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania, states that voted for Democrat Joe Biden as president.

California Republicans who voted to reject the Electoral College results from the two states — after being delayed for hours when a far-right, pro-Trump mob vandalized the Capitol — were House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, Doug LaMalfa of Richvale, Jay Obernolte of Big Bear Lake, Devin Nunes of Tulare, Darrell Issa of Vista, Ken Calvert of Corona, and Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita.

“My colleagues and I spoke out in support of ballot integrity and the sacred right to vote,” said Issa after the votes. “The process is now complete and a peaceful and orderly transition of power will occur, as it should.”

But one Republican voted to accept the votes from both states: Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove. Newly elected representative Young Kim from Orange County did not vote on the Arizona question but voted to accept the Pennsylvania results.

McClintock made it clear which way he was leaning three days before Congress went into joint session to accept or reject each state’s electoral votes, a normally routine process. He also signed a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi pledging to accept the electoral votes.

“If the Congress can refuse to count electoral votes — for whatever reason — then it has the inherent power to seize the decision for itself and render the Electoral College superfluous,” he posted on Twitter and in a statement on his official website titled “Respecting an Imperfect System.”

Yet McClintock said, “There still needs to be an intensive investigation into 2020 voter fraud. Every fraudulent vote disenfranchises an honest citizen. But once the electoral college votes, the question of who actually won the vote passes to historians  — and perhaps prosecutors.”

Kim released a statement before Congress convened that she would not support the effort to challenge Biden’s victory. “The constitution does not give Congress the authority to overturn elections,” she said.

The effort by Republican legislators to support President Trump’s false accusation of a fraudulent election and challenge Arizona’s electoral vote failed, yet still had strong support: 121 House members, all Republicans, voted to reject, while 303 members voted to accept them. Likewise, 138 Republicans voted to reject Pennsylvania’s electoral votes while 282 House members voted to accept them.

Two newly elected California representatives reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 and did not vote: Michelle Steel of Orange County and David Valadao of Hanford. Valadao has yet to be sworn in.

At least one of the California Republicans who backed the challenges acknowledged that Biden won the election.

Calvert said in a statement Thursday, “While I supported today’s objections in certain states, I acknowledge that today’s certification of the Electoral College votes by Congress means that we will have a new President on January 20th.”

LaMalfa was the only member of California’s delegation to sign the objection to Arizona’s electoral votes.

He did not say why he signed the objection, but in a statement on Facebook addressed the storming of the Capitol.

“Peaceful protests are an important part of American expression, and a cornerstone of our founding,” LaMalfa’s statement said. “Violence, no matter by who or for what reason, is inexcusable and must be dealt with immediately, forcefully and with the full force of the law.

“The actions at the Capitol today hurt our country,” the statement said. “We must always protect the rule of law.”

The storming of the Capitol prompted others to make similar statements. Obernolte also released a statement on Facebook.

“I fully support the right to peacefully protest, but violence is absolutely unacceptable,” the statement said. “Our Capitol is the stronghold of our democracy, and should not be torn down. We must respect our police and the rule of law.”

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, chosen by Gov. Gavin Newsom to replace Sen. Kamala Harris when she becomes Vice-President on Jan. 20, blamed the riot on the “lies and conspiracy theories that have come from Donald Trump and his enablers over the past five years… As we’ve seen during the violent insurrection at the Capitol, the lies create an existential threat to our democracy.”

With the formal acceptance of the votes, Padilla said, “Even through all the lies, the truth remains — our elections are secure, transparent, and final.”

CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. This coverage is made possible through Votebeat, a nonpartisan reporting project covering local election integrity and voting access. In California, CalMatters is hosting the collaboration with the Fresno Bee, the Long Beach Post and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

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