Iowa Republican legislators condemn capitol attack
Thursday, January 7, 2021
All three of northwest Iowa's federal legislators released statements just hours after the U.S. Capitol was evacuated during what has been described as a riot outside the building. Some of the individuals made their way inside the capitol building. The unrest reached a peak ahead of Congress' midday certification of the nation's Electoral College totals, which had been cast in favor of President-Elect Joe Biden. A group of 13 federal legislators planned to contest the totals. Iowa's U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said during a Dec. 15, 2020, interview that Biden was indeed president-elect by virtue of the constitution. He said Wednesday's "violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attack on American democracy itself."
"This was not a demonstration of any of our protected, inalienable rights," Grassley said. "These were un-American acts worthy only of condemnation. Those who plowed over police barricades, ignored law enforcement or desecrated our monument to representative democracy flouted the rule of law and disgraced our nation. I condemn today's violence in the strongest terms and perpetrators deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Likewise, Iowa Dist. 4 U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra — who had just been sworn in three days before the attack — called the events a sad day in U.S. history.
"While every American has a First Amendment right to free speech, which includes the right to peacefully protest, violence is never the answer," Feenstra said. "A woman died during the events that unfolded. Our beautiful Capitol — a symbol of our Republic — was desecrated in front of the world."
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, whose office noted she was the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate, said the attack was a betrayal of ideals like the right to peaceful protest which she fought to uphold during her time in the military.
"America, we cannot stand for this," Ernst said. "For years, we have been able to disagree and debate tough issues and always strive to be a more perfect union. We have had a peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another throughout the course of our history, and it's paramount we do that once again."
All three Republican legislators said they understood frustration among some voters as to the outcome of the election, and each said they felt reports of improper voting processes should be taken seriously. Both Feenstra and Ernst called for federal leaders to study and support the integrity of the elections in the future. However, Grassley pointed out Congress has no role in actually conducting or adjudicating election disputes.
"To date, 78 lawsuits have been filed alleging election irregularities in various states," Grassley said. "They have had their day in court, but none of them were successful in changing election results in any state. Politicians in Washington should not second guess the courts once they have ruled, and we cannot and should not consider allegations not formally presented to a court of law."
Iowa's senior senator went on to say the court system is the proper place to sort out such things, while Congress only receives and formally counts the electoral votes submitted by the states. He also highlighted a downside to Congress potentially supporting an objection to a state's electoral votes — the votes wouldn't be counted at all.
"Let's be clear about what the stakes are here," Grassley said. "If an objection to a state's electoral certification is sustained, the state's electoral votes are thrown out, not reallocated to a different candidate. So anyone voting to object to any state's certification of electoral votes is voting to disenfranchise an entire state."
Federal legislators reconvened to certify the electoral results Wednesday night after it was determined safe to do so.
"When I was sworn into office on Sunday, with my hand on our family's Bible, I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Today, that is what I'll do," Feenstra said ahead of Wednesday night's decision. "The Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution states, 'The person having the greatest number of [Electoral College] votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed.' To date, no state has sent a new slate of electors — even though they have the constitutional power to do so. Therefore, the results of the Electoral College will stand."
Ernest echoed Feenstra, pointing to Iowa's Dist. 2 House race between Rep. Marionette Miller-Meeks and Rita Hart. Hart, the democratic challenger, hoped to have U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rule on the results — Hart fell six votes short of Miller-Meeks.
"Though the margin was close, Iowans spoke and elected Congresswoman Miller-Meeks, and a bipartisan panel in Iowa certified the results," Ernst said. "I view the presidential election results the same way. As a senator, my job is not to overturn the will of voters and choose winners of elections — just like it's not the House of Representatives' to handpick who serves as Iowa's 2nd District congresswoman."
President-Elect Joe Biden is expected to be sworn in Jan. 20.
"America can, and must, be better than what we witnessed today," Feenstra said after Wednesday's attack. "I pray that she will be."