Democrats have decided to use the secretive Senate Ethics panel to target two Republican senators who objected to the certification of now-President Joe Biden’s 2020 win in the Electoral College.
Politico reports that while former President Donald Trump faces a public impeachment trial in the Senate, the upper chamber’s own Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) will be grilled by fellow lawmakers in the “opaque” Senate Ethics Committee.
A complaint against the two Republican senators was first submitted to the Ethics panel on Jan. 21. It was signed by seven Democrat senators: Sheldon Whitehouse (NY), Ron Wyden (OR), Tina Smith (MN), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Mazie Hirono (HI), Tim Kaine (VA), and Sherrod Brown (OH).
In their complaint, the senators charge that Cruz and Hawley “amplified claims of election fraud that had resulted in threats of violence against state and local officials around the country.” The Republicans’ objections came the same day that a mob of Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in apparent protest of the election results.
Of course, the Democrats conceded that Cruz and Hawley had the right to object to the count, but said their actions “lent legitimacy to the mob’s cause and made future violence more likely.”
“Senators Hawley and Cruz’s actions have been denounced by individuals across the political spectrum,” the complaint adds, arguing that the Ethics Committee should investigate Cruz’s and Hawley’s “conduct to fully understand their role” in the violence that transpired at the Capitol building. They also ask the panel to determine “whether disciplinary action is warranted.”
“The Senate has the exclusive power to determine whether these actions violated its ethics rules, to investigate further conduct of which we may not be aware that may have violated these rules, and to consider appropriate discipline,” the Democrats asserted.
Cruz and Hawley push back
According to Politico, Cruz and Hawley have both pushed back against the allegations, with a spokesperson for the Texas senator saying that it “sets a dangerous precedent when ethics complaints are used as a political tool to try to intimidate and punish.”
Hawley, meanwhile, said he didn’t know what to expect with regard to the Ethics panel’s proceedings — but he also went on the offensive by filing a complaint of his own with the committee. In it, Hawley accuses the seven senators who acted against him of filing “an unprecedently frivolous and improper ethics complaint against me and Senator Cruz.”
“Without citing any relevant evidence or offering any good-faith argument, they attempted to link my objection lodged under 3 U.S.C. § 15 to the criminal riot at the Capitol that occurred on January 6,” Hawley wrote. “They submitted their meritless complaint in potential coordination with a campaign by partisan and dark-money groups that have peddled falsehoods about me and my objection.”
Accordingly, Hawley called for these senators to be investigated over what he called their “baseless and destructive complaint.”
But don’t expect to hear any new developments in these cases any time soon; as Politico notes, the Senate Ethics panel is known for its secrecy — and, in the eyes of many, its lack of decisive action.