House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) heatedly insisted Thursday that he did not try to overturn the 2020 election because he only voted against validating the results from two states — which wouldn’t have been enough, he reasoned, to overturn President Joe Biden’s win.
CNN’s Manu Raju asked McCarthy about a contested election in Iowa that both parties are watching closely. Republicans have sought to cast the dispute as a nefarious bid by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to overturn an election. Raju asked McCarthy what the difference would be between such a scenario and former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election — which McCarthy himself played a role in.
“I disagree with the premise of the question,” he said before asking Raju if he knows how many electoral votes it takes to win the presidency.
“If you challenge Arizona and Pennsylvania, would that have changed and lowered President Biden’s numbers below 270?” he continued, referring to the Electoral College certifications from the two states he challenged on January 6.
Currently, the House Administration Committee is considering the election results from Iowa’s second district. Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks won the election by just six votes, and a recount was conducted and the race certified by state officials. The Democrat, Rita Hart, pointed to issues in the recount process — she said that state law limited the recount to ballots initially counted after Election Day — and says she has identified 22 ballots that were improperly rejected due to election worker error.
Hart filed a claim under the Federal Contested Elections Act which brought the case to the committee. The committee chair, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), last week instructed both sides to file an initial brief by March 22 and a reply to the other side by March 29.
Republicans, including McCarthy, have argued that Hart’s move to file a claim with Congress instead of a lawsuit in state court is a political ploy meant to give Pelosi, via the Democratic majority on the committee, the chance to yank back the seat which Miller-Meeks currently provisionally holds.
But McCarthy on Thursday was immediately dismissive of the question comparing his characterization of the Iowa situation to his role in trying to overturn the 2020 election. He grew increasingly heated as he insisted that invalidating the votes of those millions of voters in Arizona and Pennsylvania was completely different than invalidating the votes of the 400,000 Iowans who voted in the second district, due to the fact that it wouldn’t have given Trump the election.
Raju asked if, given that argument, McCarthy regretted signing onto Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit, a last-ditch effort to toss all the votes from the four battleground states that propelled Biden to victory.
“No, no, no I don’t!” McCarthy said loudly.
He continued to claim that going through the courts is the proper way to conduct election challenges before pivoting to Republicans’ primary talking point on the Iowa mess.
“That’s where you go, you go to the courts,” he said. “The system says she can go to the courts — did she go there?” he asked, adding that the case was “pure politics.”
“Don’t mistake things that aren’t the same,” he shot at Raju before moving on.
Republican anger over the still-undecided case has been growing in recent days, buoyed by a Wall Street Journal op-ed written by Karl Rove and published Wednesday titled “Pelosi Might Steal An Iowa House Seat.”
“Democrats are openly trying to steal a house seat after a state certified-election,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) declared on Twitter Thursday. “They’re not even trying to hide it.” Scott voted against certifying the election results in Pennsylvania on January 6.
Democrats insist that they’re just following federal procedure.
“For them to call anybody hypocritical about elections when two-thirds of them in the House voted against accepting the presidency of Joe Biden is — well, it’s just who they are,” Pelosi said on ABC this weekend.