By Alexander Bolton, THE HILL
Senate Republicans, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close ally of the White House, are dismissing President Trump’s suggestion Thursday to delay the November elections because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have concerns about mail-in ballots being the exclusive way to cast votes, but I don’t believe we should delay the elections. I want to reopen the economy in a sound way. I want people to go back to school safely,” Graham, who is up for reelection in November, told reporters Thursday morning.
“In South Carolina, we had a very large primary in June and were able to do it in person. I think we can be able to able to safely vote in person in November,” he said.
“I think delaying the election probably wouldn’t be a good idea,” he added.
Graham made his comments after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that delaying the election would be a “legal determination” left up to the Department of Justice.
“The Department of Justice and others will make that legal determination,” Pompeo said when pressed on the issue by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).
Kaine asserted during the hearing that “a president cannot delay an election, the date of the election is established by Congress — it was established in 1845.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in an interview with a Kentucky television station Thursday that the Nov. 3 election would be held “on time.”
He pointed out that elections have been held without delay during times of war and other crises throughout American history.
“Never in the history of the Congress, through wars, depressions and the Civil War have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time and we’ll find a way to do that again this Nov. 3rd,” McConnell told Max Winitz, the lead evening anchor at WNKY 40.
When Winitz asked whether the Nov. 3rd election date is “set in stone,” McConnell responded “that’s right.”
“We’ll cope with whatever the situation is and have the election on Nov. 3rd as already scheduled,” the GOP leader said.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso (Wyo.) also shot down the idea of delaying the Nov. 3 general election.
“We’re going to vote on Election Day and in the lead up to Election Day, it will be a secure election,” Barrasso said on Fox Business. “No, we’re not going to delay the election.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the date of the election won’t change.
“Since 1845, we’ve had an election on the first Tuesday after Nov. 1 and we’re going to have one again [this year],” he told reporters.
“We’re going to have an election. It’s going to [be] legitimate, it’s going to be credible,” he added. “It’s not going to change. We’re going to have an election in November and people should have confidence in it.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, said the election date is well-established by law.
“The federal law says we’re going to have the election the first Tuesday after the first Monday [in November.] All these things are pretty well set and have been going on for decades,” he said.
“We’re a country based on the rule of law so nobody’s going to change anything until we change the law,” he added. “It doesn’t matter what one individual in this country says. We are still a country based on the rule of law and we want to follow the law until either the Constitution is changed or until the law’s changed.”
Trump sparked an uproar earlier in the day by suggesting the election date should be postponed to guard against possible fraud through absentee and mail-in balloting — a threat that Democrats and some Republicans such as Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) say is minimal or hasn’t been apparent in their home states.
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA,” Trump tweeted. “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Thursday that election fraud is a concern but that the election should not be delayed.
“I think election fraud is a serious problem and we should fight and stop it but no, we should not delay the elections,” he said.
Some Republicans declined to criticize Trump’s idea publicly.
One Republican senator who requested anonymity said when asked about delaying the elections that Congress must act by passing a law to change the elections date.
“I don’t see that happening,” the lawmaker said.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Todd Young (Ind.), asked about Trump’s tweet, only said: “I support free, fair and secure elections.”
Kaine, after pressing Pompeo at the Foreign Relations hearing, said he was “stunned” that the secretary of State, a graduate of Harvard Law School, declined to contract Trump’s suggestion of postponing the elections.
Kaine called it “incredibly shocking” that Pompeo, “a trained lawyer whose fourth in line of succession to be president of the United States, would be equivocal about whether a president could move the election or not.”
“We’re all the time trying to tell foreign countries, don’t delay an election, don’t screw around,” he added.