TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (The News Service of Florida) — Florida’s Republican U.S. senators took decidedly different paths when voting on whether to certify results of the 2020 presidential election during a joint session of Congress that lasted into the wee hours Thursday morning.
Congress cemented President-elect Joe Biden’s victory after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol and put a halt to debate as senators, U.S. representatives and aides were rushed to safety.
When lawmakers reconvened late Wednesday evening, Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott was among the seven senators who voted to reject Pennsylvania’s electors. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, however, voted not to sustain any objections to states’ electors.
Scott, a former Florida governor who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a prepared statement that Pennsylvania enacted election policies “in direct conflict with its own state Constitution.”
The legal challenge to Pennsylvania’s election, ultimately rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, hinged in part on a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling in favor of expanding allowable vote-by-mail ballots. Scott contends the move was “in defiance of (Pennsylvania) state law.”
“We simply cannot tolerate partisan political attempts to change the rules and tip the scales in our elections,” Scott wrote in a statement Wednesday.
Longtime Sunshine State political scientist Susan MacManus told The News Service of Florida Thursday that Scott likely felt Pennsylvania was the only state where an argument based on the Constitution would stick.
“The Pennsylvania case was much much more clearly a constitutional issue than it was an argument about signatures or something like that. It had to do with legislative authority,” MacManus said.
The issue Scott focused on “could be perceived by some as a broader and more serious election violation than some of the other issues that were being challenged,” she said
The Senate ultimately voted 92-7 to accept the results of Pennsylvania’s election.
Trump has repeatedly called the election results “rigged” and fraudulent, despite a lack of evidence to support such claims.
Rubio, using most of his allotted five minutes during the Senate debate on an objection to Arizona’s electors that ultimately failed, told colleagues he heard from supporters and friends on his “side of the political aisle” leading up to his vote.
“And they have doubts that the election was legitimate and it gives this country this extraordinary crisis of confidence, which is very dangerous because democracy is very fragile and it’s not held together by elections,” said Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants. “Democracy is held together by people’s confidence in the election, and a willingness to abide by its results.”
Rubio and Scott were among a myriad of Florida Republicans who rushed to condemn Wednesday’s violence in the halls of Congress.
During his floor remarks, Rubio said the display made a mockery of U.S. politics and delighted of foreign adversaries.
“China’s laughing. They’re loving this tonight. In Beijing, they’re high-fiving because they point to this and say, ‘This is proof that the future belongs to China. America’s in decline.’ Vladimir Putin? There’s nothing that Vladimir Putin could come up with better than what happened here,” Rubio said. “Makes us look like we’re in total chaos and collapse.”
Despite Wednesday’s pandemonium, Florida Republicans remain hesitant to criticize Trump by name, instead tailoring barbs to those who overran the Capitol building in what Biden called a “dark moment” in the nation’s history.
“The thugs who stormed the Capitol yesterday need to be arrested and prosecuted,” Scott tweeted, urging anyone who has information “about yesterday’s attack” to “please contact the authorities.”
But Florida Democrats blamed Wednesday’s violence on Republican lawmakers who supported Trump’s baseless claims.
“The facts are clear to those not living in a fantasy land: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won this election and it wasn’t especially close. Anyone who chooses to support the contrary is feeding the same delusions spreading from the president that incited yesterday’s violent attempted coup on our U.S. Capitol,“ Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said in a prepared statement.
Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo called out Scott as well as the 11 Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation who voted against certifying electors in Arizona and/or Pennsylvania.
“Even after this desecration of the Capitol that put the lives of our Congress members and staff at risk, 12 of the Congressional leaders from Florida voted to invalidate election results from swing states where they didn’t like the outcomes. It is despicable,” Rizzo said in a press release Thursday.